© 2024 | Jefferson Public Radio
Southern Oregon University
1250 Siskiyou Blvd.
Ashland, OR 97520
541.552.6301 | 800.782.6191
Listen | Discover | Engage a service of Southern Oregon University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

What Will Trump's Twitter Strategy Be When He Becomes President?

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks July 16 in New York City. The president-elect's Twitter habit could run up against cybersecurity recommendations once he's in office — but he may also choose to disregard that advice to keep his direct channel to the public open.
Bryan Thomas
Getty Images
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks July 16 in New York City. The president-elect's Twitter habit could run up against cybersecurity recommendations once he's in office — but he may also choose to disregard that advice to keep his direct channel to the public open.

Since winning this year's presidential election, Donald Trump has given the American public no shortage of outbursts, public disputes and grandiose declarations on Twitter.

Just this week, he questioned the veracity of CIA reports alleging Russian influence and hacking with the goal of helping Trump win the presidency. He has picked fights with The New York Times, CNN, Saturday Night Live, and Americans who would burn the American flag. Trump has called the Air Force One program too expensive, questioned America's China policy, and made allegations of widespread voter fraud (with no evidence supporting the claim).

He also has bragged about making business deals with the likes of Lincoln, Carrier and a Japanese mogul. Trump claims these will save or create tens of thousands of jobs, though as more details emerge, the deals seem a lot less advantageous for American workers than the president-elect initially implied.

All this has been done from Trump's Twitter account.

Throughout the tweets, one thing has become clear: Donald Trump has become even more emboldened in his use of the social media platform since defeating Hillary Clinton. Trump seems to be uniquely adept at using Twitter to control a news cycle, bypass traditional press and capture the country's attention.

But as his inauguration draws closer, a new question emerges: What, if anything, might make Donald Trump change his Twitter habits?

The answer might be the presidency itself. Cybersecurity protocols for a presidential smartphone will mean Trump's officialsmartphone once he's in the White House will be a bare-bones, stripped-down, ultra-secure device.

President Obama joked about just how basic such a device is during a summer appearance on NBC's Tonight Show.

"It doesn't take pictures, you can't text," Obama told Jimmy Fallon. "The phone doesn't work. You can't play your music on it. So, basically, it's like — does your 3-year-old have one of those play phones?"

Several cybersecurity experts told NPR that it's highly unlikely intelligence personnel will recommend use of the Twitter mobile app on Trump's government smartphone.

"I don't think it'd be possible to do that on a secured phone, at least with the security policy that they had for Obama's phone," says Martin Alderson, co-founder of mobile security company Codified Security. "I think that the Twitter app would be too hard to lock down."

That's especially true, he said, with Android phones, where gaps in mobile app security take longer to patch than on Apple devices.

Alderson suggests Trump could start dictating tweets to a staffer once he's president.

"I think usually what we'd probably see is perhaps an aide doing it for him on his behalf from a more secured laptop [or desktop] computer," Alderson says.

This could mean that Trump might tweet less, and avoid tweeting early in the morning or late at night as he does now. Having a staffer serve as a filter for tweets could change the tone of what he's writing as well.

But Trump also could choose to use his own device in addition to the official presidential smartphone, says Tom Pageler, a former Secret Service agent who's now chief risk and security officer at technology company Neustar.

The National Security Agency, Secret Service and White House Communications Agency will advise the incoming president on suggested security measures, Pageler says, but ultimately, the president can make his own smartphone decisions.

"Together they will advise the president of safety [protocols] that they should take, maybe disabling a GPS," Pageler says. "However, the president can do what they want. They're still a person. ... In this case he [President-elect Trump] definitely has the trump card."

A representative from the Defense Information Systems Agency told NPR that until Trump is inaugurated, his transition team would handle questions related to his devices and social media use. Trump's transition team did not respond to NPR's requests for an interview on this topic.

If historical precedent is any guide, we should expect Donald Trump to keep tweeting — presidents always look for ways to bypass traditional media. The White House Correspondents' Association has complained, for example, that President Obama's reliance on official White House photographer Pete Souza resulted in photojournalists being excluded from events involving the president.

Trump's tweeting is just the latest example of that desire to control the message — and if it continues to work for him, why would he let it go?

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Sam Sanders
Sam Sanders is a correspondent and host of It's Been a Minute with Sam Sanders at NPR. In the show, Sanders engages with journalists, actors, musicians, and listeners to gain the kind of understanding about news and popular culture that can only be reached through conversation. The podcast releases two episodes each week: a "deep dive" interview on Tuesdays, as well as a Friday wrap of the week's news.