All presidential transitions come with a lengthy to-do list, but the Obama administration’s list has a new addition: social media.
President Barack Obama was the first president to use @POTUS on Twitter, the first to use Facebook live in the Oval Office and the first to use a Snapchat filter. And that trail of digital information, including a Vimeo, Flickr and even a Myspace, has to go somewhere for people to continue to access it.
The White House committed Monday to preserving the outgoing administration’s digital information, including social media, with the National Archives and Records Administration, as well as working to make sure the material is still accessible on its original platform and that the next administration can continue to use and develop the tools it created.
For example, President Obama’s tweets are just moving to a new handle, @POTUS44, so @POTUS will be available to the new president. The same “44” designation — for the 44th presidential administration in American history — will follow for other handles such as @WhiteHouse, @FLOTUS, @PressSec and @VP, so the next administration can use those as well.
In a blog post Monday, Kori Schulman, special assistant to the president and deputy chief digital officer, said the administration is also committed to sharing its social media content in a way that is easy to download all at once, like in zip files, by the end of its term.
The administration is also looking to preserve its websites to the best of its ability. For example, public petitioning website We The People’s code has been open sourced.
“The We the People code has been open-sourced and we’re taking every step possible to make it easy for future administrations to carry on this tradition,” the administration said Monday. “The petitions and our responses will also be archived with NARA.”
So far 12 million users have created more than 470,000 petitions on the site, the White House said Monday.
“Over the years, we’ve seen it become a powerful platform, with petitions reaching senior staff and the President’s desk and even shaping policy on topics including cell phone unlocking and net neutrality,” the blog post reads.
Schulman’s blog post also calls for the public to archive the content in creative ways.
People who are interested in making publicly available tools to better organize and use the administration’s social media data can get early access to all the data by applying here.
In particular, the administration is looking for tools or functionality that would help make the data more accessible to all people, more easily searchable or more engaging through better presentation.
“From a Twitter bot that replays the big moments of the past eight years, to empowering people to make personal photo albums from the White House Instagram archive, we’re interested in the best ways to capture all that we did together in President Obama’s two terms,” the announcement reads.
When it comes to searchability, the administration is looking for tools that help pull up posts relevant to particular subjects across platforms.
And for accessibility, the post notes that “while we’ve made big strides in the last few years to make our photos, videos, and other types of social content more accessible for Americans with disabilities, we still have a long way to go to add metadata and descriptions that make older content enjoyable to all audiences.”
“What tools or functionality could be developed to make this content accessible to all?” the announcement asks.