The Presidential Records Act of 1978 does not explicitly require social media posts to be archived
The bill would mandate that a president's social media -- deleted tweets and all -- be preserved
While the political world and late-night comedians still debate what “covfefe” means, at least one member of Congress is aiming to establish what it stands for.
Democratic Rep. Mike Quigley of Illinois has introduced a bill, dubbed the “COVFEFE Act,” to require the preservation of a president’s social media records.
Quigley’s bill turns the buzz word into an acronym standing for the Communications Over Various Feeds Electronically for Engagement Act, which would broaden the scope of the Presidential Records Act of 1978 by including the term “social media” as documentary material.
On May 31, President Donald Trump declared at 12:06 a.m. on Twitter: “Despite the constant negative press covfefe.”
The tweet remained published for several hours before being removed, allowing observers plenty of time to ponder the meaning of “covfefe.” But the deletion and others like it have raised questions about how presidents’ social media should be handled and preserved.
“In order to maintain public trust in government, elected officials must answer for what they do and say; this includes 140-character tweets,” Quigley, who co-founded the Congressional Transparency Caucus, said in a statement.
Trump’s frequent, unfiltered use of his personal Twitter account is “unprecedented,” Quigley said.
As is, the Presidential Records Act mandates that presidents take all necessary steps to ensure their records are properly documented and stored with the National Archives and Records Administration for public release after they leave office.
The law allows exemptions for personal documents, like diaries and medical records, but otherwise asserts a broad scope. A 2014 amendment expanded its latitude to include electronic records but did not explicitly mandate the preservation of social media records.
In light of the President’s use of Twitter as a daily means of communicating directly with the public, Quigley’s bill reignites a long-running conversation about the extent of presidential record-keeping and transparency.
“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,” the lawmaker said. “Tweets are powerful, and the President must be held accountable for every post.”