Why does President Obama have 3 accounts on Twitter?

On May 18th, President Obama opened a 3rd Twitter account, @POTUS, after using @barackobama since March 2007 and @WhiteHouse as President.  One reason to wonder why Obama has a 3rd Twitter account is looking at the small number of tweets, 4 so far, one saying hi, one about Camden meeting on police brutality, one a joke about Hillary running for President, and one about coast guard graduation and climate change.

NPR commented on who Obama was following, and who he is not following,

It’s heavy on Chicago sports teams, (Blackhawks, White Sox, Bears and Bulls), Cabinet officers and executive agencies. He’s also following the three colleges and universities he attended: Columbia, Harvard and Occidental. No celebrities, or journalists for that matter, have made the list yet.

While Funny or Die shows fake(?) deleted tweets from @POTUS, Sunlight Foundation’s “Politwoops” website of deleted Tweets from politicians shows no deleted tweets from @POTUS, but does contain deleted tweets from @barackobama, @whitehouse, and the no longer active @obamainagural

One answer to why Obama has 3 accounts could be to track who tweets threats to President Obama, as I saw here from the New York Times, writing as it’s headline 

Obama’s Twitter Debut, @POTUS, Attracts Hate-Filled Posts

this should not be shocking to anyone following the vitriol doled out to the President since day 1, even breaking new records of disrespect, like when Congressman Joe Wilson shouted “You Lie” during a joint session of Congress.

The New York Times explains that

it took only a few minutes for Mr. Obama’s account to attract racist, hate-filled posts and replies.

but here is where a story about long-standing racist attacks against President Obama get interesting and concerning…..the government’s response. (emphasis mine)

a user calling himself @jeffgully49, who has posted other images of Mr. Obama in a noose, and whose Twitter profile picture shows Mr. Obama behind bars. “We still hang for treason, don’t we?” his post said.

The writer, Jeff Gullickson of Minneapolis, subsequently posted on Thursday that his reply to Mr. Obama had earned him a visit from the Secret Service at home. Reached for comment, Mr. Gullickson responded by asking in an email how much The New York Times would pay him for an interview.

White House officials and a Twitter spokesman said they could not determine the percentage of postings to Mr. Obama that were racist. But they appeared to be a small number in what was an otherwise social-media-fueled show of love for Mr. Obama, who was drawing followers at a breakneck pace — nearly 2.3 million by Thursday afternoon — and hundreds of worshipful messages that welcomed him to Twitter and praised him on everything from his appearance to his policies.


Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, said that the language directed at Mr. Obama was unfortunately “all too common on the Internet,” and that officials would probably not spend much time trying to block abusive commenters from the president’s account.

“What we believe is that the president’s new Twitter handle is one that can be used to important effect and to communicate with the American people and to engage the American people,” Mr. Earnest said. “We’re pleased with the early response to it.”

The Twitter account @BarackObama, which was created eight years ago and is controlled by the liberal activist group Organizing for Action, has long been a target of racist postings, as has the official @WhiteHouse.

Law enforcement response

The Secret Service has a special “Internet Threat Desk” that monitors them, assessing whether they constitute a genuine danger and what should be done in response.

“People have the right to free speech,” said Brian Leary, a Secret Service spokesman. “We also have the right and an obligation to determine a person’s intent when they say something.”

The response can range from a conversation determining someone’s intent all the way up to working with the local United States attorney’s office to prosecute someone, Mr. Leary said.

Law enforcement agencies can also submit requests to Twitter when postings appear to pose immediate physical danger to someone, and Twitter will provide information about the account. A Twitter transparency report for the second half of 2014, the latest available, showed that the government had made more than 1,600 such requests. Twitter had furnished information in 80 percent of those cases.

“Like all of our technology industry peers, we do not proactively monitor content,” said Nu Wexler, a Twitter spokesman. “Individual users and law enforcement authorities — including the U.S. Secret Service — report content to us, and we review their reports against our rules, which prohibit violent threats and targeted abuse.”

I think given the lack of need for Obama to have a new platform of communication, especially a 3rd account on Twitter, lends more credibility to my theory that this launch may be a way to monitor those who attack Obama with news of this new account.

And I’m not alone in point this out, I’m just wondering if this was an intention all along.

WaPo says Uh, you probably don’t want to tweet to @POTUS, actually

Not only does the Secret Service already monitor Twitter for threats, but the White House is archiving each and every thing @POTUS tweeters say. Ashley Feinberg flagged this relevant piece of the White House Online Privacy Policy:

On Twitter, the White House automatically archives “tweets” from official White House accounts, “direct messages” sent to or from official White House accounts, and “mentions” (tweets from other users to official White House accounts)…

… in other words, when you tweet “leave Michelle for me @POTUS,” or something even more inappropriate/creepy, that lives in an official White House Archive for eternity (slash, for potential future scrutiny).

To be clear, this isn’t just a White House thing: The principle applies, in one form or another, to most types of social networking. Some personal data, once uploaded to Facebook, never really disappears unless you close your account. Tweets, even after deletion, can live on in caches (… and elsewhere). Even your Google searches — which feel so fleeting, so meaningless, in the moment! — can be archived and aggregated and, potentially, subpoenaed for use in court. 

Gawker gave more explicit examples of sexual tweets Obama has received, and reminded everyone that White House policy is to archive it all under the Presidential Records Act.

Huffington Post’s Jason Linkins suggested Obama delete his Twitter account and also commented on the work Secret Service would now be doing monitoring threats (Washington Examiner was to the point writing the headline Obama’s Twitter feed gives Secret Service something else to monitor)

For a president, Twitter is just one more avenue in which your every move will become politicized (which is already happening) and where racist trolls lurk around every corner. (Speaking of, think about all the new work the Secret Service is going to have.)

and adding my point that Twitter as a communications platform is unnecessary

It’s also completely unnecessary for a president to be on Twitter, because there is a whole media apparatus already assembled that’s ready to broadcast any stray utterance to the masses. Barack Obama could walk into the White House Press Room; say, “Hey, guys, check out this delicious avocado toast I made”; and by nightfall it would be translated into three Politico items, broadcast on every cable news channel, mined for at least two think pieces, and adapted as a metaphor for Maureen Dowd to beat to death over the next four years.

Anyone who thinks that this new outlet is going to be a venue for the president’s unvarnished, sincere opinion needs to get his head examined. And yes, that cute little exchange between Obama and former President Bill Clinton was absolutely a tidy bit of Oval Office kayfabe. Anything that gets posted to the @POTUS account will be vetted within an inch of its life, and anything remotely interesting will be stripped out and watered down.

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