Gov. Agencies Have Twitter Rules; Will Donald Trump Follow Them?

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on January 10, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Even the smallest of small businesses have social media policies these days. The platforms are far too public to abide by any gaffes, lest your rep be forever tarnished by the loose fingers of an unpaid intern. So it's no surprise that government agencies have strict Twitter rules that require multiple layers of writing, proofing, editing, and approval before anyone even considers clicking "Tweet."

But, as anyone who's kept an eye on the previous election can attest, that seems like about four or five more thoughts than President-elect Donald Trump gives before firing off his social media missives. So will the Twitterer-in-Chief adhere to some common sense principles when managing his social media presence once he's sworn in? Don't hold your breath.

A Toxic Environment

Case in point: the Environmental Protection Agency was found to have violated Government Accountability Office rules on "covert propaganda" after using a social media-amplifying network called Thunderclap to get out the message on the Clean Water Rule. The app made a standard message supporting the environmental initiative available for reposting on Twitter, without attributing the text to the EPA.

Federal law prohibits federal agencies from promoting or lobbying for their own actions in a "covert" fashion, and may not use federal resources to conduct grassroots-style lobbying efforts urging members of the public to contact Congress regarding pending legislation. The GAO cited the EPA for multiple violations of federal law and the Clean Water Rule remains in limbo.

@ The Donald

It feels like Donald Trump was tweeting before Twitter was even invented. If the platform wasn't created specifically for him, it may as well have been. Few users in Twitter's history, let alone politicians on the platform, have used it with such vehemence, regularity, and, it must be admitted, success.

But it hasn't been all sunshine and roses for the next president. Collections of Trump's Twitter gaffes are plenty, and available to anyone with Google access and hours to waste. Trump appears to have already violated Twitter's terms of service concerning incitement of abuse and harassment, and it's only a matter of time until Trump tweets, impertinently, about an international incident (if he hasn't already).

Will soon-to-be President Trump be held to the same standard as the EPA and other government agencies when it comes to lobbying on social media? Will Twitter prove to be too tempting a pulpit to avoid, or will his press team be able to wrest the platform from his busy little fingers? There's only one way to find out ...

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