By Sheryl Estrada
President Barack Obama sent the first tweet of the official Twitter account @POTUS on Monday, which simultaneously broke a Guinness World Record and elicited racist responses.
According to White House Deputy Director of Online Engagement for the Office of Digital Strategy Alex Wall’s blog post, @POTUStweets will come exclusively from President Obama. The Twitter account was created for the President to communicate directly with the public.
Wall writes, “President Obama is committed to making his Administration the most open and participatory in history, and@POTUSwill give Americans a new venue to engage on the issues that matter most to them.”
Guinness World Records states on its website that on Monday night President Obama “shattered the record for fastest time to reach one million followers on Twitter” after the new account reached the figure in less than five hours. The account now has more than 2 million followers.
Hello, Twitter! It’s Barack. Really! Six years in, they’re finally giving me my own account.
President Obama (@POTUS) May 18, 2015
However, within 10 minutes of his first tweet, multiple racist Twitter users began replying to him using the N-word. There are still users, with active accounts, using inflammatory language; and users who post violent images of the President.
Even outside of social media, blatant disrespect for Mr. and Mrs. Obama has been evident throughout their time living in the White House. In July, Former Attorney General Eric Holder said in an interview “there’s a racial animus” toward the Obama administration. For example, last May in New Hampshire, then Wolfeboro Police Commissioner Bob Copeland eventually resigned after calling the President the N-word.
“I believe I did use the N-word in reference to the current occupant of the White House,” Copeland wrote in an email to his fellow commissioners. “For this, I do not apologizehe meets and exceeds my criteria for such.”
This month, in her commencement speech to Tuskegee University graduates, Mrs. Obama discussed “the chatter, the name calling, the doubting” she endured as a Black woman during her husband’s 2008 White House campaign.
The hateful language about the President did not begin with the new @POTUS account. Anyone who uses Twitter avidly has most likely witnessed hateful language or harassmentcommunicated in 140 characters or less under a claim of free speech.
As millions of Twitter users continue to generate traffic for the platform, isn’t it time for an enhanced method to deal with abusive trolling
The truth is Twitter, which quickly created an animated diagram to show the rapid rate in which the President’s account gained followers from all over the world, is slow at stopping trolling.
In February, Twitter CEO Dick Costolowrote an internal memo to his employees about harassment and abuse that exists on Twitter, a company that had an all white male board of directors until adding Marjorie Scardino in 2013.
Costolo took responsibility for the harassment and abuse caused by trolls:
We suck at dealing with abuse and trolls on the platform and we’ve sucked at it for years. It’s no secret and the rest of the world talks about it every day. We lose core user after core user by not addressing simple trolling issues that they face every day. I’m frankly ashamed of how poorly we’ve dealt with this issue during my tenure as CEO. It’s absurd. There’s no excuse for it. I take full responsibility for not being more aggressive on this front. It’s nobody else’s fault but mine, and it’s embarrassing. We’re going to start kicking these people off right and left and making sure that when they issue their ridiculous attacks, nobody hears them. Everybody on the leadership team knows this is vital.
Twitter, your users interested in productive discourse deserve more, including the current President and future Presidents who will utilize the @POTUS account. President Obama sent two additional tweets on Monday. One tweet was a response to President Bill Clinton’s question, “Does that username stay with the office” Obama wrote, “The handle comes with the house.”
President Obama (@POTUS) May 18, 2015