That’s just a tiny fraction of his 88.6 million followers — but it’s a shift for an account that had largely been growing at a fast clip for most of his time in office, even as he attacked social media companies for censoring conservatives. Trump had only 20.8 million followers when he took office on Jan. 20, 2017, per Factba.se.
Meanwhile, President-elect Joe Biden has seen his popularity surge in the aftermath of his election. His account gained more than 1.9 million followers in the same period, according to the Twitter tracker. But Biden, with 20.9 million followers, remains a much less prolific tweeter than his predecessor.
The data raises questions about how powerful Trump will remain on social media after he leaves the White House.
The slight decline in followers suggests the online megaphone that was central to his unconventional presidency might lose some of its magnitude once he leaves office – but will probably still overall remain strong.
Traditionally, modern presidents have resisted publicly weighing in on day-to-day political issues after their time in office. But almost no one expects that from Trump, who continues to falsely claim he won the election.
Yochai Benkler, co-director of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University and an expert on the news media and misinformation, said he expects a “somewhat diminished” presence from Trump on Twitter after he leaves office. “This initial loss suggests a very small dribbling away,” Benkler said.
But overall, he said he continues to have stable support from his base, and the drama and entertainment that comes from his feed could keep drawing people in.
“I would be very surprised if he goes quietly into the night either willingly or unwillingly and just gets ignored by people,” Benkler added. “He’s going to keep being a player.”
Trump’s Twitter account could be essential to his next act.
He has been discussing a potential presidential run in 2024, my colleagues have reported. Trump is also weighing other ways to make money, including appearing on television, giving paid speeches to corporate groups, selling tickets to rallies and writing a memoir of his time in office.
Twitter’s moderation battles with the president are expected to continue.
So far the action Twitter has taken appears to only have had a minimal effect on the president’s number of followers. The company has flagged 317 of the president’s tweets to date, according to Factba.se data. Ten of those flags have come in the last 24 hours as the president falsely suggest there was widespread voter fraud and that he won the election.
Don’t expect Biden’s Twitter feed to be anything like Trump’s.
Washington reporters and political junkies can probably turn off the Twitter notifications and return to more official sources when they want news from the Biden White House.
Biden may be gaining more followers, but experts expect his Twitter presence to remain pretty staid. He has used his Twitter account much more traditionally, sharing links to his Cabinet nominees or clips from recent speeches.
Benkler said that Trump used Twitter to circumvent his own administration processes to have an unmediated communications channel, and Biden would not do that.
“We have every reason to think that in this like in everything else Biden will play it hyper normal,” Benkler said. “We should expect him to use it much more like normal politicians use it, and in that regard it will be much more boring. But that’s just fine.”
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Breaking up WhatsApp and Instagram from Facebook would be a technical nightmare, insiders say.
A new lawsuit from the Federal Trade Commission aims to unravel the social media giant, forcing it to give up its investments in Instagram and WhatsApp. But Facebook’s strategic decisions in recent years to integrate the systems into one data and advertising powerhouse could make the task very difficult, Elizabeth Dwoskin reports.
Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg initially promised the founders of both companies that their services would stay independent. But nearly a decade later, Facebook and Instagram now share the same servers, databases and technology, people familiar with the systems say. Data from both is combined into a single advertising profile. In September, Facebook launched a pilot integration between Facebook Messenger and Instagram.
“Instagram is simply not viable outside of Facebook infrastructure. They spent six years moving things over,” said Dmitry Borodaenko, a former Facebook engineer who worked on the integrations. “They just can’t undo it. They would have to rewrite half their apps. It would take years.”
Spinning off WhatsApp, which is still far less intertwined with Facebook, would be more like a six-month technical project, said two people famili
ar with the company’s systems who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk freely. Integrating WhatsApp has proved more challenging because it uses end-to-end encryption, a different privacy standard than Facebook. Facebook has also begun to merge its data with WhatsApp despite promises to European regulators to keep it separate.
The move signals that Facebook won’t let a government lawsuit that could span over a decade stall its growth.
Regulators aim to cast Mark Zuckerberg as the main villain in their lawsuit against Facebook.
“In calling for the breakup of his $800 billion company, federal and state officials portray a Zuckerberg who could more easily star in a Silicon Valley update to ‘The Godfather,’” Craig Timberg and Drew Harwell report. “Rivals cower at the thought of ‘the wrath of Mark’ as he schemes to ‘eliminate’ competitors, who face being ‘snuffed out’ if they defy him, according to the 123-page complaint from state officials.”
It’s a striking comparison to the Justice Department’s complaint about Google, which does not name company executives.
“Google is much more of a machine, while Facebook is essentially a machine built around an identity of one, which is Zuck. Everyone at the company tries to essentially act how Zuck would,” said Ashkan Soltani, who was the former chief technologist at the Federal Trade Commission from 2014 to 2015 and the technical lead on the 2011 FTC privacy case against Facebook.
Airbnb’s stock soared on opening day.
The stock opened at $146 per share, more than double the value the company had set for the initial public offering the night before, Rachel Lerman reports. The success caps off a year for the travel start-up that included a huge hit in bookings due to the coronavirus pandemic and layoffs of a quarter of its staff. The company was able to rebound over the summer as states opened back up and users chose to take staycations.
But with states shutting back down as cases spike across the country, the company expects to fare worse this quarter than in the summer.
“The higher the stock price, the higher the expectations, the harder we’re going to be working, obviously,” chief executive Brian Chesky told Emily Chang of Bloomberg News. Airbnb has never reported a profit. The company lost $674 million last year.
One of iPhone’s first app stores is suing Apple for allegedly driving it out of business.
Cydia, a once-popular app that allowed iOS users to install new software, is suing the tech giant for putting security barriers in place it says were meant to give Apple’s own App Store an advantage, Reed Albergotti reports. The lawsuit is the latest in rivals’ efforts to loosen Apple’s grip on developers. Epic Games sued Apple this summer for kicking it off the App Store after it introduced a payment system to sidestep Apple’s.
Apple spokesman Fred Sainz said the company will review the lawsuit and denied that the company is a monopoly.
Susan E. Rice will leave Netflix’s board in January for a role in the Biden administration, Deadline reports. Biden announced on Thursday that Rice will run the White House Domestic Policy Council. Rice served as national security adviser and ambassador to the United Nations under President Barack Obama.
Rant and rave
Another expansion of the Streaming Wars universe.
- The Electronic Frontier Foundation will hold an event on the deplatforming of the far right and its consequences at 8 a.m.
Before you log off
Thinking of buying an Amazon Halo for Christmas? Geoffrey A. Fowler and Heather Kelly give you some reasons to think twice. (Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)