As President Trump and members of his administration continue to use Twitter to amplify and sometimes to announce directly the Trump administration’s positions and policies, Twitter must take immediate steps to ensure that any tweets or direct messages sent or received by officials in the Trump administration are properly archived, CREW said in a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. Guidance from the National Archives and Records Administration dictates that these tweets are considered electronic communications, and therefore public property under federal law, and should be properly archived.
The president and several prominent members of his administration use Twitter to conduct government business and announce official administration decisions, while frequently defying the basic requirements for government conduct, Twitter’s own terms of service, and even the law. While government officials are legally obligated to preserve presidential and federal records created or stored on social media platforms, it remains unclear whether the Trump administration has been doing so. Meanwhile, Twitter appears to have changed or ignored its own rules regarding the conduct of the president and his staff.
“President Trump and his administration have routinely used Twitter in order to communicate directly with the American people and conduct government business. However, the president and his staff have also repeatedly used this platform in ways that support unethical, and sometimes illegal, behavior,” said CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder. “By preserving President Trump’s Twitter account, and those of his staff, the company would play a vital and necessary role in ensuring that the historical record of the Trump administration is accessible to the American public, Congress, and other government institutions for years to come.”
The Presidential Records Act requires the president and his staff to document, preserve and maintain records of “the activities, deliberations, decisions, and policies that reflect the performance of the President’s constitutional, statutory, or other official or ceremonial duties.” While Twitter has already made significant adjustments to its rules and operations to account for government officials frequently turning to the platform to disseminate their messaging, CREW called on Dorsey to establish and implement a uniform and transparent procedure for the collection and retention of potential federal and presidential records created on the social networking site.
“President Trump frequently violates Twitter’s terms of service, and several prominent members of his administration use the platform to violate federal law. Having provided a platform for this activity, and made exceptions to its rules that have allowed such flagrant abuses of power to continue on unchecked, Twitter should now take steps to ensure that any content created, sent, or received by accounts used for executive branch business are preserved,” said Bookbinder. “Implementing a policy to preserve such records will allow the public to inspect how government officials operated during this time and help them understand what can be done to prevent abuses of office going forward.”