Tech, Trump and Twitter

The media (and the current POTUS) sat up and noticed when Donald Trump gave up his Twitter account before the election. Trump is a proficient Twitter user. He’s had high-profile spats, and used social media to chastise the press, even after he became President-elect.

Those who follow @realDonaldTrump may have noticed a difference in the tone and wording of some of his tweets. Some are sent from an Android device, and appear to be written by Trump himself. Some are posted from an iPhone. In some Twitter clients, the app used to send the tweet is displayed under the content, so it’s easy to pick them out. But even without that information, it’s obvious from the tone that two different people are tweeting.

David Robinson went one step further than looking at the content; he actually analysed the language, post frequency, and timing. Trump on Android posts more in the morning, which would suggest it’s him; he’s a notoriously early riser. Trump (on Android) frequently uses words like “crazy”, “weak” and “dumb”, and comes across as more negative. In contrast, the tweets from the iPhone are a textbook example of a well-managed social media campaign. According to analysis, those ones aren’t from Trump.

Given that Trump already mooted plans to stay at the White House only part-time, one would presume that he’s expecting many of the constraints of office not to apply to him. But here’s the thing: he won’t be allowed to use a phone. Android is arguably the mobile OS most susceptible to malware and hacks [1, 2, 3], and Trump uses a Samsung Galaxy.

Even if he switched OS, the weak link on any system is the user: they lose their phone, they leave it unlocked, or they install an app that isn’t safe. That’s why Presidents aren’t allowed to use smartphones like the ones we use.

Here’s an interesting juxtaposition. I recently wrote an article about the bizarre internet in North Korea, and the tech that is in use there. I found out that Kim Jong-un is probably the only person in the DPRK that owns Apple products, apart from devices bought on the black market. In complete contrast, American presidents are stuck with phones that can’t dial out. They can’t even take a photo.

Obama has an iPhone, but most of the apps are disabled. So he has to borrow someone else’s iPhone to Tweet. Which is ironic, because I just realised that @BarackObama has been following me for 8 years on Twitter. He was President-elect when the account was first used. It sounds like he’s not been able to interact much since, thanks to his toy-town handset. So I guess I needn’t worry that I wasn’t following him back.

If Obama wasn’t allowed to call home from his smartphone, I doubt that Trump will be allowed to tweet. But maybe he’ll stash away a secret Samsung Galaxy at Trump Tower. Either way, he’s almost certainly guaranteed to have less access to social media than Kim Jong-un, which is a beautiful irony, given the week we’ve just lived through.