When President Trump first started using Twitter to broadcast messages, it generated a lot of discussion about the content. People (e.g., citizens and journalists) wondered if they should take these 140-character messages so seriously. And then they wondered if they could afford not to take them seriously. After all, the tweets were coming from the President directly, or from someone in his office to whom he delegated the task.
Over a year into his presidency, Trump still relies on Twitter to broadcast messages and communicate. As a publicly-elected official, if Trump decides to use social media to disseminate messages it’s as valid a method as anything else like web content, public speaking, press conferences, articles, interviews, memos, etc. However, where it gets sticky, at least from a records and information management (RIM) perspective, is how Trump specifically uses Twitter.
From a RIM perspective, using Twitter, or any form of social media to broadcast messages and communicate can be valid for any government. What causes the problems are Trump’s lack of regard for content and failure to follow any sort of process to publish messages. Messages coming from the government should be trustworthy, authentic, verifiable, and proofread! They should go through a routine process to ensure content is accurate, valid, and acceptable. Trump misspelled the word “honered” in one of his first tweets as President. This should have never happened.
Also problematic is Trump’s usage of two separate Twitter handles, a personal one and a government one, to post messages. He blasts out tweets as both @realdonaldtrump and @potus (President of the United States). As President, he should only be using his @potus account for official communications. His @realdonaldtrump account should be reserved for messaging when he is not acting in the role of president, which isn’t really possible for someone in such a high position. So if Trump’s going to continue to use Twitter, he should only do so as the President and not as himself. However, this doesn’t seem possible for him leading to all kinds of confusion about whether or not we should take the tweets seriously, and if so, which ones. The ones he writes as the “President” or the ones he writes as “Donald Trump.” The answer, because of who he is and how he uses Twitter, is both.
Now that tweets can be 280-characters, perhaps we should be taking Trump’s tweets twice as seriously.