COVFEFE Bill Would Make Tweets Part of Official Record

Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) has introduced a bill that would amend the Presidential Records Act to include "social media" as documentary material to be preserved in the National Archives.

The Communications Over Various Feeds Electronically for Engagement, or COVFEFE Act, pokes fun at the President's apparently unfinished tweet—later removed—that ended with the enigmatic "covfefe," which social media had a field day with soon afterwards, as did TV comedians and even t-shirt makers.

But there appears to be a serious motive of the legislation as well. “In order to maintain public trust in government, elected officials must answer for what they do and say; this includes 140-character tweets,” said Quigley, who is also co-chairman of the Congressional Transparency Caucus, in announcing the bill.

The National Archives signaled in 2014 that it thought social media merited historical preservation.

Sean Spicer last week said Trump's tweets were indeed official statements of the President. "President Trump’s frequent, unfiltered use of his personal Twitter account as a means of official communication is unprecedented," said Quigley. "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. Tweets are powerful, and the President must be held accountable for every post.”

Given the makeup of the Congress, it is likely no more than another shot across the bow at the President for an itchy twitter finger.

This is not the first cleverly titled Trump-targeted bill Quigley has introduced. In March, it was the Making Access Records Available to Lead American Government Openness, or MAR-A-LAGO Act (after Trump's Florida estate), which requires the publication of visitor logs to the White House or, as Quigley's office put it on the congressman's website, "any other location where President Trump regularly conducts official business." That suggestion would not bode well for such a bill, since legislation cannot be explicitly targeted to people. The bill would have to make it clear that it applied to wherever "the President" conducted official business, so it was a law of general applicability.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.