Nothing says love like having your loved one wish you a “happy birthday” in front of a huge audience. That’s why we ‘ordinary’ people pay to place birthday messages on the marquee screens at ball games, while superstars give Happy Birthday! shout outs at their sold-out concerts. Of course, if you are Donald Trump, you tweet your “happy birthday” messages to your wife and children to the acclaim of your 28 million fans.
There’s a new archive of Trump’s twitter accounts, which predicts whether he actually wrote each of his tweets. And it seems he’s been outsourcing to his staff the tasks of writing birthday wishes to his wife and sons. But not his daughters, of course. Or his superstar friends. Or a random twitter user’s mom.
Machine Learning and the Did Trump Tweet It? archive
According to its FAQ, DidTrumpTweetIt.com isn’t just an archive of all the @realDonaldTrump and @POTUS tweets; it also uses machine learning to predict whether or not Trump wrote each one. Machine learning, explains the curator of the site, is “just a fancy way of saying a computer program makes predictions based on information you have given to it” That could be predicting how much a house should cost based on the characteristics of lots of other houses. Or recognizing handwritten addresses on envelopes based on lots of handwriting samples. Or identifying who wrote a certain text by using lots of other examples.
Back in 2016, this report showed that the @realDonaldTrump twitter account seemed to have two authors. Tweets posted from an Android phone tended to differ substantially in tone and content from those written on an iPhone, and the generally-accepted conclusion ever since has been that tweets from Android devices were actually written by Trump (since he uses Galaxy smartphones running the Android operating system), while other people (his staff?) wrote the ones posted from iPhones.
As explained here, the curator of DidTrumpTweetIt decided to put that conclusion to the test with machine learning. The idea is fairly simple, although the implementation isn’t. Find patterns (word choice, grammar, punctuation, tone) in a subset of the @realDonaldTrump tweets, train an algorithm to distinguish between some iPhone and Android tweets, and then see if it could correctly identify tweets it had never seen before. If it worked, then there was statistical evidence showing that the iPhone and Android tweets were in fact penned by different authors.
And worked it did. The resulting algorithm accurately identifies tweets from Trump’s Android phone over 98% of the time. Those predictions have been posted for almost 31,000 of Trump’s tweets, for anyone to peruse. So we did. And something immediately caught our eye in the listing of those he didn’t write.
Trump outsourced his wife’s Happy Birthday message
Two weeks ago, it was Melania Trump’s birthday. She received two tweets from her husband. The first from his personal account:
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 26, 2017
and the second from President of the United States:
— President Trump (@POTUS) April 26, 2017
According to DidTrumpTweetIt, the probability he wrote these is less than 1% (see here and here). In other words, this tweet has nothing whatsoever in common with the thousands we know he has written, and everything in common with those we believe his staff authored instead.
Barron, Donald Jr., Eric, Ivanka, and Tiffany
A search of all tweets that contain “happy birthday” (and aren’t retweets) yields the following birthday messages to his sons:
- Eric Trump on Jan. 6, 2017. Probability he wrote it: 2.8%
- Eric Trump on Jan. 5, 2016. Probability he wrote it: Less than 1%
- Donald Trump, Jr. on Dec. 31, 2016. Probability he wrote it: 1.6%
- Donald Trump, Jr. on Dec. 31, 2015. Probability he wrote it: Less than 1%
- Barron Trump? Sorry, kid. Daddy hasn’t ever tweeted a birthday wish to you.
Outsourced or forgotten, each and every one. And it should be added, the only Happy Birthday tweet Melania has ever received was this year.
Yet his daughters fared much better. He actually wrote messages to:
- Ivanka Trump on Oct. 30, 2015. Probability he wrote it: 66.17%
- Ivanka Trump on Oct. 30, 2014. Probability he wrote it: 90.3%
- Tiffany Trump on Oct. 13, 2013. Probability he wrote it: 95.2%
Again, it may be of little surprise that he fawns on his daughters more than anyone else in his family, considering what he has said about Ivanka in the past.
So who does receive personal Happy Birthday greetings from Trump?
Plenty. These must be the people he really cares about. Famous people like Jack Nicklaus, Billy Graham, Chris Wallace, Barbara Walters, Ronald Reagan, Nelson Mandela, and Aretha Franklin. And then there is user @jeffphilbin, @ritter1025‘s wife, @shelleysherwin‘s mom, and about 60 other random twitter users.
That’s right. Random users. His wife and sons were either are outsourced or ignored, but @JTDixon_Inker received not only a happy birthday but a personal wish for a good trip to NYC. That has to sting.
Featured image from Instagram.