A new Twitter bot that turns President Trump’s freewheeling tweets into official-looking White House statements has become somewhat of a sensation.
The bot, @RealPressSecBot, was launched Sunday night by St. Louis-based software engineer Russel Neiss and went viral overnight, with more than 47,000 followers as of Monday morning.
The bot scans for tweets from Trump’s account, @realDonaldTrump, every five minutes, then converts them into the format of official White House statements.
Neiss told Yahoo News that he created the bot in about 40 minutes Sunday after he saw one of Trump’s tweets about the London terrorist attacks converted into a presidential press statement.
Pat Cunnane, a former White House aide for the Obama administration, wrote “because he’s President – all of Trump’s Tweets should be mocked up in the correct Presidential statement format.”
“It shook me right then and there in the moment — it’s sort of obvious in some ways that these statements on Twitter are presidential statements that are distributed to the world for their consumption,” Neiss said about Cunnane’s tweet.
For context – because he's President – all of Trump's Tweets should be mocked up in the correct Presidential statement format. It's telling. pic.twitter.com/UZ7d2WJRs4
— Pat Cunnane (@PatCunnane) June 4, 2017
Neiss also drew inspiration from a Sunday tweet from New York Times correspondent Maggie Haberman calling on people to treat Trump’s tweets as presidential statements rather than “minimizing” the president’s tweets.
“I think the reason it’s so powerful is that it’s very straightforward, it’s a very obvious connection to make,” Neiss said.
Though Trump has faced criticism for his use of Twitter, historian Ruth Ben-Ghiat told Yahoo News that the president’s Twitter habits are useful for archivists and biographers, and that the social media network has become the means of communication used by many world leaders.
But the content of Trump’s tweets — which often contain typos or factual errors — has caused him to face “widespread ridicule and criticism” for the “unpresidential” behavior, she said. On Sunday and Monday, Trump twice took London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s comments about last weekend’s terror attack out of context in order to deride him on Twitter.
“Twitter plays into Trump’s inability to recognize the boundary between his personal interests and his role in public office,” Ben-Ghiat said. “The aides are as usual having to do their cycle of getting on TV … as his defender and interpreter.”
Neiss hopes that his bot will help people take Trump’s Twitter stream more seriously.
“If [the bot] makes folks treat the tweets with the gravity that these statements actually are, I think that would be a victory,” Neiss said.
But will Trump stop tweeting? Probably not, Ben-Ghiat said.
“I don’t think he’ll be stopping anytime soon,” she said.
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