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Biden team calls out Twitter over plan to wipe White House accounts’ followers

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JULY 26: A sign is posted on the exterior of Twitter headquarters on July 26, 2018 in San Francisco, California. Twitter is expected to announce strong second quarter earnings o (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images via CNN)

(CNN) — President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team has pushed back against Twitter’s decision to not allow the millions of followers of the White House Twitter accounts to be automatically retained when the accounts are handed over to the new administration.

When President Donald Trump took office in 2017, his administration inherited the millions of followers of each account handed over from the Obama administration. It was the first Twitter transfer of power in US history, and at the time, the @POTUS accounts and @WhiteHouse each had more than 13 million followers.

Nearly four years later, the @POTUS and @WhiteHouse accounts have 33.2 million and 26 million followers, respectively. Trump, a famously prolific tweeter, will retain control of his personal Twitter account, @realDonaldTrump, which has 88.5 million followers on the platform.

“In 2016, the Trump admin absorbed all of President Obama’s Twitter followers on @POTUS and @WhiteHouse — at Team 44’s urging,” Biden transition official Rob Flaherty tweeted on Tuesday.

“In 2020, Twitter has informed us that as of right now the Biden administration will have to start from zero,” Flaherty said.

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Flaherty said in a later tweet that this was Twitter’s decision, not the President’s. He said in a separate tweet directed at Nick Pacilio, a Twitter spokesperson, that he was “happy to share the email thread where we pushed back and we were told this was unequivocal.”

Pacilio said in a statement on behalf of Twitter that the multiple White House accounts being transferred “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,” Pacilio said. “For example, people who follow @WhiteHouse will be notified that the account has been archived as @WhiteHouse45 and given the option to follow the new @WhiteHouse account.”

Pacilio did not provide a reason for the change when asked in a follow-up question by CNN.

On January 20, the day Biden will be inaugurated, Twitter will facilitate the transfer of @WhiteHouse, @POTUS, @VP, @FLOTUS, @PressSec, @Cabinet and @LaCasaBlanca to the Biden administration, according to Pacilio.

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