The transfer of power on Friday from Obama to Trump went fairly smoothly. Lots of smiles, handshakes and hugs.
The one bump you probably didn’t see was the transfer that took place online. On Twitter, to be specific.
I tend to shy away from political material in this column. I also avoid talk of politics on my social media posts, holding true to the advice I offer readers.
But a mistake such as the one that happened on Twitter on Friday requires a little unpacking, regardless of how political it appears on the surface.
The fact is it wasn’t political. Leave it to Twitter users to make it political.
In case you missed it, when Twitter transferred administrative power of Twitter accounts from Obama to Trump, several unsuspecting users started screaming, albeit in 140 characters or less.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said that about 560,000 users were automatically transferred to the accounts now controlled by the Trump administration. This included the mother-of-all-world-leader-accounts, @POTUS.
@POTUS is the official Twitter handle of the president of the United States.
Twitter quickly corrected the transfer issues.
Dorsey noted in a tweet that users who followed Obama’s new account, @POTUS44, were automatically set to follow the @POTUS handle as well.
@jack: All: we investigated what happened here, and we made some mistakes (which have been corrected). Some context first.
Dorsey went on to say that the Obama administration had actually been working with Trump’s team on the best way to hand-off the accounts. In a way, the teams agreed that it was actually the “people” who owned the @POTUS account, not one individual.
As Dorsey put it:
@jack: Because @POTUS is an institutional account (not personal) they felt it only fair to transition accounts with followers intact, but 0 tweets.
The Trump @POTUS account has a little more than 14 million followers. By comparison, @POTUS44 has 14.6 million. Obama’s old @POTUS account is now nothing more than a collection of his posts as president, something akin to his presidential library of archived tweets.
If you go to @POTUS now, you’ll find only a few tweets, the first of which was posted on Friday at 2 p.m.
Dorsey went on to detail each step Twitter took to fix the transition problem:
@jack: 1. People who followed @POTUS44 (Obama Admin) after 12pET were mistakenly set to also follow @POTUS (Trump Admin)
@jack 2. Some people who unfollowed @POTUS in the past were mistakenly marked to now follow @POTUS
The switch also affected other official accounts such as @VP, @WhiteHouse, and @PressSec. Those who unfollowed those accounts in the past were mistakenly marked to now follow the new accounts.
Like any good leader, and in true Twitter fashion, Dorsey owned the mistake:
@jack: We believe we’ve corrected all accounts to reflect your follow/unfollow intent. We’re sorry for the mistakes made here, and thank you all.
Dr. Adam C. Earnheardt is professor and chair of the department of communication at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, USA. He researches and writes about communication and relationships, parenting and sports. He writes a weekly column for The Vindicator newspaper on social media and society.