Twitter is a preferred platform for both journalists and President Donald Trump. However, a slew of Twitter accounts have popped up to cover the Twitter angle of Trump’s presidency, like what he sees on the platform and who he and his family follow and unfollow.
Many of the Twitter accounts are bots, or automated accounts that do not require a human user to tweet. This is advantageous due to the time-consuming nature of tracking Trump’s tweets. A running CNN article that pledged to provide the background to Trump’s tweets has not been updated with such information since May 12. A Twitter list of accounts that Trump follows, also done by CNN, has not been updated since April 24.
Washington Post national correspondent Philip Bump has also written two bot accounts that provide a window into Trump’s Twitter activity. Bump’s first account, @TrumpHop, retweets Trump’s tweets from years past. Trump’s personal Twitter account and the many tweets criticizing President Barack Obama have become a goldmine for journalists and critics of the President who retweet them years later in relation to what Trump has done. Trump Hop has been around since May 2016.
Bump has also written a bot version of CNN’s Trump follow list, @Trumps_Feed. The account retweets all of the tweets and retweets of those Trump follows, providing a window into what the President sees when he opens up Twitter. The bot does have an advantage over CNN’s list in that it checks Trump’s followers every five minutes and updates itself if he follows or unfollows someone, according to Bump.
Speaking with TKNN over email, Bump said that Twitter bots are useful because “it gives us a lot of opportunity to learn more about him.” Furthermore, Bump believes that Twitter bots for journalistic purposes will grow and that the Twitter bots in particular are uniquely fitted for this story because Trump is a heavy user of the platform and “the media is itself addicted to Twitter.”
The account, @TrumpsAlert, also tracks the Twitter activity of several Trump family members, including President Trump and children Eric, Donald Jr., and Ivanka. It also tracks Kellyanne Conway’s activity on the platform. The platform tweets out when one of the accounts it is tracking has followed or unfollowed someone, liked a tweet, or changed their profile banner picture. The bot is oftentimes used as a way to see how the Trump family and Conway react to certain opinions on Twitter, either by unfollowing, following, or liking a tweet. However, the bot is not foolproof when it comes to unfollows. If an account is suspended or the account blocks the Trump account being tracked, the bot will say the Trump account unfollowed that account. After Marlee Matlin, who had competed on The Celebrity Apprentice, attacked the President in a tweet, the bot tweeted out that the three children had unfollowed Matlin. The bot’s tweets went viral, but the account’s owner later clarified that Matlin could have blocked their accounts.
A direct message for comment to the @TrumpsAlert account went unanswered.