As you may recall, when President Obama left office in 2017, Twitter transferred the @POTUS account to President Trump. According to Business Insider, the change enabled President Trump to inherit almost 14 million followers who originally followed the @POTUS account when it belonged to President Obama.
That’s not going to happen when President-elect Joe Biden becomes President. Rob Flaherty, Digital Director for Joe Biden tweeted: “In 2016, the Trump admin absorbed all of President Obama’s Twitter followers on @POTUS and @WhiteHouse – at Team 44’s urging. In 2020, Twitter has informed us that as of right now the Biden administration will have to start from zero.”
The Biden transition team told Business Insider that the @POTUS, @FLOTUS, and @PressSec accounts will all start at zero followers. Twitter will send a one-time notification to users that follow @JoeBiden or @KamalaHarris to suggest they follow Biden’s transition team account, @transition46. That account will be rebranded as @whitehouse, according to the Biden team.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Twitter will reset those accounts’ passwords and share ownership with the National Archives and Records Administration.
The National Archives confirmed it will receive and archive content posted to those official accounts. The @POTUS account will be renamed @POTUS45 and will be frozen as-is on Twitter. Mr. Trump will maintain control of his personal @realDonaldTrump account post-presidency. When President Obama left office, the account handles were changed to @ObamaWhiteHouse and @POTUS44.
Overall, I think it is a good thing that Twitter will have the Twitter accounts of the Biden Administration start at zero. I remember feeling confused and frustrated when @POTUS shifted from President Obama to the Trump Administration. I chose to follow @POTUS when Obama was president, and didn’t understand that it would automatically shift to President Trump. In my opinion, the current followers of @POTUS will likely be very loud and angry if @POTUS shifted over to Joe Biden after he is inaugurated.
Starting the accounts of the incoming administration at zero could help prevent unnecessary harassment from Trump’s grumpiest supporters. It would also give people the opportunity to chose whether or not they want to follow the Twitter accounts connected to the Biden Administration. Having that option would likely make for better, healthier, conversation about whatever those accounts tweet.
Periscope announced that they have made the difficult decision to discontinue Periscope as a mobile app by March 2021. Periscope has provided information about how to download an archive of your Periscope broadcasts and data before the app is removed. No one will be able to make a new Periscope account in-app starting with the next release.
…The truth is that the Periscope app is in an unsustainable maintenance-mode state, and has been for a while. Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen declining usage and know that the cost to support the app will only continue to grow over time. Leaving it in its current state isn’t doing right by the current and former Periscope community or by Twitter…
Periscope also wrote: “We probably would have made this decision sooner if it weren’t for all of the projects reprioritized due to the events of 2020. We’re sharing our decision with you now because we want to be transparent and honest about where we’re at and what’s next.”
Twitter posted Periscope FAQs that Periscope users may want to read. Twitter wrote: “Given our previous work integrating core parts of Periscope into the service, this move will allow us to further strengthen our live video creation natively in Twitter.” Twitter recommends that you use your remaining coins to send Super Hearts to your favorite broadcasters by March 31, 2021.
Engadget reported that any broadcasts you shared through Twitter will live on as replays. The Periscope website will stay up as a read-only archive of videos people broadcast publicly.
Twitter has a history of killing off apps after integrating them into Twitter’s platform. Twitter shut down Vine in 2016. In 2018, it killed Tweetbot, Twitterific, Talon, and Tweetings by removing access to APIs needed to power push notifications and auto-refreshing a timeline. It looks like Periscope had issues related to the events of 2020, and is not specifically being killed off by Twitter.
Squad, a screen-sharing social app, announced that is has been acquired by Twitter. As part of the acquisition, Squad will shut down the Squad app on December 12, 2020.
Esther Crawford, CEO of Squad, posted about this on Medium:
I’m excited to announce that Twitter has acquired Squad! The team will be joining Twitter to broaden the spectrum of conversations people can have on the service. Specifically, we’ll be bringing our expertise in audio and video to the creation space – and are looking forward to building new formats that allow for fun, meaningful & engaging conversations.
Ilya Brown, Twitter’s VP of product, tweeted: “Excited to share that the @squad team is joining @Twitter to help us bring new ways for people to interact, express themselves, and join in the public conversation.”
TechCrunch reported that Squad’s co-founders, CEO Ester Crawford and CTO Ethan Sutin, and the rest of the team will be coming aboard inside Twitter’s design, engineering, and art departments.
According to TechCrunch, the actual Squad app itself is not coming aboard Twitter. The Squad app allowed users to share their screens on mobile or desktop and simultaneously video chat, a feature that aimed to find the friend use case in screen-sharing beyond the enterprise use case of presenting.
The question now is: What will happen to Periscope? The Squad app is shutting down as of December 12, 2020, shortly after Twitter acquired it. Twitter shut down Vine four years after acquiring it. Periscope was acquired by Twitter in 2015 and has some functions that might be similar to what Squad offers. I guess we will have to wait and see what Periscope’s fate will be.
Twitter users have probably seen some tweets that have had labels added to them. This began ahead of the 2020 election. At the time, Twitter users could not retweet a labeled tweet. They could, however, quote tweet them and add their own commentary.
Twitter has now announced, in a tweet on @TwitterSupport, an expansion of their policy:
Giving context on why a labeled Tweet is misleading under our election, COVID-19, and synthetic and manipulated media rules is vital.
These prompts helped decrease Quote Tweets of misleading information by 29% so we’re expanding them to show when you tap to like a labeled Tweet.
I tested out Twitter’s new restrictions on clicking like on a labeled tweet. When I clicked like, a small pop-up appeared that said: “The claim about election fraud is disputed” in bold text. It also said “Help keep Twitter a place for reliable info. Find out more before liking”. The pop-up included a button that said “Find Out More”.
I clicked the “Find Out More” button, which lead to a Twitter curated page with facts that show that voter fraud is exceedingly rare in the United States. Plenty of articles that back up that assertion can be found there.
What happens if I don’t want to “Find Out More”? There is a small, empty, heart on the pop-up at the bottom, with the word Like next to it. It is still possible to like a post that has been labeled as misleading from that pop-up – even if the user didn’t proceed to the fact-checked information. The pop-up slows people down, and functions as a deterrent for people who click like without thinking about it first.
Twitter’s original plan may have been to put the restrictions on labeled tweets ahead of the election, and perhaps revert back after Election Day. Twitter is continuing to use those restrictions. To me, it makes sense to do this because there are people on Twitter who continue to post misinformation about voting and the outcome of the election.
The @POTUS Twitter handle will automatically transfer to President-elect Joe Biden when he is sworn in on Inauguration Day, Politico reported. It does not matter to Twitter if President Donald Trump has conceded by that time.
Other official Twitter accounts associated with the presidency will also automatically transfer on Inauguration Day. This includes @whitehouse @VP and @FLOTUS.
I remember when this shift of Twitter handles occurred when President Trump was Inaugurated. At that time, I was following the @POTUS handle because I wanted to keep up with the news from the Barack Obama administration. After Trump was Inaugurated, I noticed that the @POTUS account was showing news from the Trump Administration.
“Twitter is actively preparing to support the transition of White House institutional Twitter accounts on January 20th, 2021, Twitter spokesperson Nick Pacilio said in an email. “As we did for the presidential transition in 2017, this process is done in close consultation with the National Archives and Records Administration.”
Politico explained that the handover of these accounts does not require the Trump team and the Biden team to share information. All of the existing tweets on those accounts will be archived. Twitter itself will transfer the accounts and reset them to zero tweets.
Personally, I think this transition of the @POTUS account from Trump to Biden is going to take some Twitter users by surprise. I expect that some people, who don’t understand that Twitter normally shifts presidential accounts from the outgoing administration to the incoming one, will be posting angry tweets.
That said, the @realDonaldTrump account is not among the presidential accounts that will switchover on January 20th. Trump can keep using that account – but he will lose the special treatment that world leaders receive. This means he should be more careful about what he tweets, or risk having to delete tweets or having his account suspended.
Twitter announced additional, significant product and enforcement updates that it says will increase context and encourage more thoughtful consideration before tweets are amplified. I believe that certain US politicians are going to become irate about these changes. Overall, I think these changes will be beneficial to most people who use Twitter.
Financial Times reported that these changes come weeks before Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey and Facebook head Mark Zuckerburg are due to testify before the Senate commerce committee as part of a review of Section 230, which gives them immunity from being sued over content that they publish.
Previous to these changes, Twitter already implemented policy that does not allow anyone on Twitter to manipulate or interfere in elections or other civic processes.
They have expanded that policy:
- People on Twitter, including candidates for office, may not claim an election win before it is authoritatively called. To determine the results of an election in the US, Twitter require either an announcement from state officials, or a public projection from at least two authoritative, national news outlets that make independent election calls. Tweets which include premature claims will be labeled and direct people to our official US election page.
- Tweets meant to incite interference with the election process or with the implementation of election results, such as through violent action, will be subject to removal. This covers all Congressional races and the Presidential Election.
- Starting next week, when people attempt to Retweet one of the tweets with a misleading information label, they will see a prompt pointing them to credible information about the topic before they are able to amplify it. Tweets with labels are already de-amplified through Twitter’s recommendation systems, and these new prompts will give individuals more context on labeled Tweets so they can make informed decisions on whether they want to amplify it to their followers.
- Additional warnings and restrictions will be added on tweets with a misleading information label from US political figures (including candidates and campaign accounts), US-based accounts with more than 100,000 followers, or that obtain significant engagement. People must tap through a warning to see these Tweets, and then will only be able to Quote Tweet. Likes, Retweets, and replies will be turned off, and these tweets won’t be recommended on Twitter.
- Beginning on October 20 and continuing through the end of Election week in the US, Twitter will prompt people to Quote Tweet instead of Retweet. Twitter hopes it will encourage everyone to not only consider why they are amplifying a tweet, but also increase the likelihood that people will add their own thoughts, reactions, and perspectives to the conversation.
Twitter has now made it possible for you to decide who can respond to your tweets. Twitter states that these new settings help some people feel safer and could lead to more meaningful conversations. It appears that the new settings reduce harassment on the platform.
Here’s how it works. Before you Tweet, choose who can reply with three options: 1) everyone (standard Twitter, and the default setting), 2) only people you follow, 3) only people you mention. Tweets with the latter two settings will be labeled and the reply icon will be grayed out for people who can’t reply. People who can’t reply will still be able to view, Retweet, Retweet with Comment, share, and like these Tweets.
Twitter started testing these options in May. Here is some of what they learned:
- These settings help some some people feel safer
- People told Twitter they felt more comfortable Tweeting and more protected from spam and abuse.
- Problematic repliers aren’t finding another way – these settings prevented an average of three potentially abusive replies while only adding one potentially abusive Retweet with Comment, And, Twitter didn’t see any uptick in unwanted Direct Messages.
- People who face abuse find these settings helpful – those who have submitted abuse reports are 3x more likely to use these settings.
- It’s a new method to block out noise – 60% of people who used this during the test didn’t use Mute or Block.
Twitter also found that these options enable more meaningful conversations. People who use these settings share more of their thoughts about topics such as Black Lives Matter, COVID-19, politics, and social issues. Make your tweet followers only – and no “reply guys” can interact with your tweet and derail the conversation.
Personally, I think these features are a nice addition to Twitter. It will reduce harassment in part because people won’t have the satisfaction of directly being mean to someone else. Based on Twitter’s research while they were testing these new options, it appears that those who want to be mean don’t seem to want to use the Retweet with Comment options to do it.