Introducing: The COVFEFE Act
H.R. 2884 — The COVFEFE Act
H.R. 2884 — The COVFEFE Act is being sponsored by Representative Mike Quigley (D-IL). The act would require that all of a president’s social media posts, including tweets from any personal non-governmental accounts used during their term(s) of office. The full name of the act is the Communications Over Various Feeds Electronically for Engagement. Its acronym is attracting attention, but the bill is much more than a cute name.
Why the COVFEFE Act Matters
The covfefe tweet is in many ways the tweet heard ‘round the world. It prompted many rounds of speculation about what was actually meant by it and was broadly lampooned over social media. The President deleted the original tweet a few hours after it was posted; this deletion raises an important public policy concern. A National Archives and Records Administration advisory opinion from April, calls for the archiving of the President’s social media postings to preserve them for the historical record, but as an advisory opinion it does not have the force of law.
The two official governmental handles on Twitter — @POTUS and @WhiteHouse — are subject to being recorded by the National Archives since they were created during the Obama Administration, the “covfefe” tweet, along with many others, came from the President’s personal account, @RealDonaldTrump. The President has continued to use this account to communicate with his 32.2 million followers — much more so than the two official accounts with their far fewer followers.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer claims that tweets from the President’s personal account should be treated as “official communications.” In support of this assessment was the recent decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold an injunction blocking the implementation of the executive order. The three-judge panel included a June 5 tweet from the President, giving more force to the argument that these items must be preserved for the public record.
Representative Quigley is joined by 16 co-sponsors in the House — all Democrats:
- Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA)
- Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA)
- Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA)
- Rep. Darren Soto (D-FL)
- Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL)
- Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL)
- Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-IL)
- Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL)
- Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN)
- Rep. Lacy Clay (D-MO)
- Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY)
- Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY)
- Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY)
- Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY)
- Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN)
Supporters of the bill argue that it closes a loophole in the current Presidential Records Act of 1978 which has not been updated to better represent the digital landscape. While Twitter was created during the presidency of G.W. Bush, its use did not become popular until the Obama presidency. Rep. Quigley had this to say:
“In order to maintain public trust in government, elected officials must answer for what they do and say; this includes 140-character tweets. President Trump’s frequent, unfiltered use of his personal Twitter account as a means of official communication is unprecedented. If the President is going to take to social media to make sudden public policy proclamations, we must ensure that these statements are documented and preserved for future reference.”
Opponents of the bill argue that its sole purpose is to embarrass the President. In addition, they believe that the likelihood of any social media post from a sitting president being lost is nominal due to the ability of the public to screenshot tweets. Read more about the bill here:
If you’re curious about what other tweets may have been deleted by the President, ProPublica maintains a list of the more than a dozen that have been deleted so far:
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