The @POTUS account on Twitter currently has 33 million followers. On Jan. 20, Inauguration Day, that number might drop. President-elect Joe Biden won’t automatically inherit the followers of the previous administration when he officially takes control of the account on the popular social media platform, Twitter said Tuesday.
The company will also transfer the @WhiteHouse, @VP, @FLOTUS, @PressSec, @Cabinet, and @LaCasaBlanca to the Biden administration on Inauguration Day.
“The accounts will not automatically retain their existing followers. Instead, Twitter will notify followers of these accounts to provide context that the content will be archived and allow them the choice to follow the Biden administration’s new accounts,” Twitter said in a statement. “For example, people who follow @WhiteHouse will be notified that the account has been archived as @WhiteHouse45 and given the option to follow the new @WhiteHouse account.”
That’s a reversal of, when Donald Trump’s incoming administration inherited the @POTUS account from President Barack Obama, complete with millions of followers. Twitter confirmed last month that , which stands for president of the United States, whether or not Trump concedes by Jan. 20.
Social media is a way for people, including the president, to instantly broadcast a message to a large number of people online. Twitter’s decision to not automatically transfer followers could limit the number of people the upcoming administration will be able to reach online. Biden’s team isn’t happy with Twitter’s choice.
Rob Flaherty, the digital director for Biden’s presidential campaign, said in a tweet Tuesday that Twitter told Biden’s transition team that “as of right now the Biden administration will have to start from zero” when the @POTUS and @WhiteHouse accounts are transferred. In another tweet, Flaherty said Biden’s team pushed back against the idea but was “told this was unequivocal.”
The Wall Street Journal, citing people familiar with the matter, also reported the issue was a “sticking point” that arose in a meeting last week. During the 2017 transfer of the White House Twitter accounts, there were some hiccups in the process, including technical glitches and complaints from users, according to the report.
Biden’s transition team didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.