President Donald Trump’s personal Twitter account was temporarily removed on Thursday after a Twitter employee purposefully deactivated the account.
Trump’s @realDonaldTrump account went down for 11 minutes Thursday afternoon, and it was originally unclear why. Twitter later tweeted that it was because of “human error” and that the company was investigating further.
In a tweet Thursday night, Twitter confirmed that the account was deactivated “by a Twitter customer support employee who did this on the employee’s last day.”
Through our investigation we have learned that this was done by a Twitter customer support employee who did this on the employee’s last day. We are conducting a full internal review. https://t.co/mlarOgiaRF— Twitter Government (@TwitterGov) November 3, 2017
The fact that a single Twitter employee can remove the account of the most power Twitter user on the planet is startling, to say the least. Two sources familiar with the company said that employees on Twitter’s Trust and Safety team have the ability to suspend or remove accounts, but a second source said that this is limited.
This source added that Twitter once considered a safeguard in which it would require two employees to remove important, notable Twitter accounts, but that it has never been implemented.
Another source said that Twitter’s top employees, including the CEO, could not automatically delete an account, which are monitored via what are essentially dashboards at the company.
That said, another source said that someone internally with tech skills could certainly figure out a way to go around the system.
What is not clear is whether Twitter had a special plan in place for Trump’s account, which is undoubtedly the most high-profile one on the platform, either to protect it or suspend it if he or those who tweet for him did anything to violate terms of service.
A company spokesperson declined to comment on Twitter’s safety and security operations for “security reasons.” But, given the controversy this situation will attract, it will have to have a lot more answers, and quick.
Trump will no doubt be frustrated with what happened, and we might hear from him in the morning via his Twitter account, which is back up and running and presumably being watched over more carefully now by Twitter.
More importantly, it is a definite black eye for tech, which is already under siege in Washington, D.C., where Twitter, Facebook and Google had a rough week. The trio testified at three Congressional hearings about their platforms being used by Russia to create divisiveness in the U.S. around the 2016 elections. Both Democrats and Republicans attacked the tech giants for lacking oversight of their operations.
This deletion of the Trump account proves that point. In addition, it is already the perception of some — especially conservatives — that the Silicon Valley tech industry is predominantly anti-Trump. The fact that a company employee removed the U.S. president’s Twitter account certainly won’t change that perception and will, in fact, reinforce it.
This isn’t the only recent drama Twitter has had with high-profile accounts. Last month, the company temporarily suspended the account of actress Rose McGowan, who was tweeting about film producer Harvey Weinstein, whom she claims sexually assaulted her. Many thought Twitter was silencing McGowan by choosing to suspend her account, although Twitter later argued that it was because McGowan had violated the company’s user guidelines. Twitter has promised to better explain those guidelines moving forward.
Many on Twitter had a field day with Trump’s temporary ban. The only silver lining for Twitter: This generated a lot of funny tweets.
Dear Twitter employee who shut down Trump's Twitter: You made America feel better for 11 minutes. DM me & I will buy you a Pizza Hut pizza. https://t.co/ruzaVBcQp1— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) November 3, 2017
I️ hope that the lives of the existing Twitter employees don’t become harder as the result of the one person deactivating Trump’s account.— deray (@deray) November 3, 2017
I survived the Trump twitter outage— Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) November 2, 2017
November 2, 2017
6:58PM to 7:04PM #neverforget
Exit interview video of the Twitter employee that deactivated Trump's Twitter pic.twitter.com/biyZp6khhB— Medium Rare (@StickAForkInYou) November 3, 2017
Trump’s Twitter was deactivated by a “Twitter customer support employee who did this on the employee’s last day.”— Philip Lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) November 3, 2017
New Twitter employee mistakenly deactivates Donald Trump's Twitter account pic.twitter.com/gZ50xWC2bo— Alex Marr (@Alexmarr98) November 3, 2017
Just gonna say it, the employee at Twitter who shut off Trump's account for 11 mins could become a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize.— David Jolly (@DavidJollyFL) November 3, 2017
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.