Services & Software

Trump's response to 11-minute Twitter deletion? An 'impact' tweet

Twitter blames a departing employee for a brief outage of the president's personal account. Soon enough, Trump himself weighs in.

Visitors to Donald Trump's personal Twitter page Thursday afternoon found the page gone.

It was an absence that lasted just 11 minutes, but it got everyone's attention.

For that length of time on Thursday -- about as much as it takes to make a pot of coffee -- Donald Trump's personal Twitter account went missing.

We're talking here about one of the main ways that the president of the US communicates to the world, a form of expression that's nearly synonymous with who Trump is. It's also a source of controversy that has had critics wondering if Twitter might ever pull the plug.

Trump has credited the social media platform with helping him win the White House, but some close to the president reportedly worry that his prolific and strongly worded tweeting could have dire consequences. The New York Times reported earlier this year that members of his staff are desperate for him to slow down with the tweets.

So a hiccup to the @realDonaldTrump account, which has more than 41 million followers, has some serious reverb.

President Trump noted as much early Friday morning, hours after his account had been reactivated. He tweeted, somewhat cryptically, about the impact of his tweeting.

Who's to blame?

During the outage, which started shortly before 4 p.m. PT on Thursday, visitors to the account found a message saying that the page didn't exist.

About an hour later, Twitter's @TwitterGov account tweeted to say that the Trump account had been "inadvertently deactivated due to human error." Two hours after that, the @TwitterGov account placed the blame on a customer service employee spending their last day with the company.

Trump used the term "rogue employee."

By midday on Friday, The New York Times, citing unnamed sources, reported that the person was a contractor, not a full-time employee.

Questions remain about how the employee had that level of access to be able to delete an account, or what other sorts of tampering might be possible. Buzzfeed News cited a "former senior employee" of Twitter describing relatively easy access to certain account controls. The New York Times said that while "hundreds of employees" can take actions such as disabling accounts, customer service workers cannot access direct messages or tweet through other people's accounts.

Twitter didn't respond to a request for additional comment.

On Friday, the Twitter Government account tweeted that the company has "implemented safeguards to prevent this from happening again."

The incident, coming after months of criticism of how Twitter handles the president's account, prompted speculation that the account may have been suspended. Many have wondered why the company doesn't delete some of his tweets, given their apparent violation of its rules.

Twitter's rules forbid using the service to make violent threats, either direct or indirect. Accounts violating that rule may be subject to a temporary or permanent suspension, Twitter warns. Suspensions aren't uncommon on the site.

Roger Stone, a longtime associate of Trump, was suspended by Twitter on Saturday after lashing out at CNN anchor Don Lemon. In January, pharmaceuticals executive Martin Shkreli was given a Twitter timeout for harassing a freelance journalist.

The focus on Trump's status on the site intensified during a war of words with North Korean leadership last month, during which the president tweeted that if North Korea's foreign minister "echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won't be around much longer!" The tweet was interpreted by many, including the foreign minister, as a threat of military action against the country.

Twitter acknowledged that Trump's tweet had caused an uproar but said it was allowed to stay because of its "newsworthiness."

Trump has other accounts he can tweet from besides his personal account. He can also send tweets from official accounts such as @POTUS, which has nearly 21 million followers, or @WhiteHouse, which counts nearly 16 million followers.

First published Nov. 2 at 4:09 p.m. PT.
Update at 5:19 p.m. PT: Added tweet from @TwitterGov.
Update at 7:20 p.m. PT: Added tweet about rogue employee. 
Update, Nov. 3 at 6:45 a.m. PT: Added tweet from President Trump.
Update Nov. 3 at 11:19 a.m. PT: Added more background and Twitter's tweet about implementing safeguards.

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