Tuesday 20 August 2019

Twitter faces scrutiny after Trump's account deleted for 11 minutes

Restored: Donald Trump. Photo: Evan Vucci/AP Photo
Restored: Donald Trump. Photo: Evan Vucci/AP Photo

Matt O'Brien

Some cheered and others raised concerns when US President Donald Trump's Twitter account, a mouthpiece for the presidency, mysteriously went dark for a few minutes.

"My Twitter account was taken down for 11 minutes by a rogue employee," Mr Trump wrote from his restored account early yesterday, making light of the brief Thursday evening outage that vexed many of his millions of followers.

"I guess the word must finally be getting out and having an impact."

Twitter on Thursday night blamed a customer support worker for deactivating Mr Trump's account on his or her last day on the job.

The San Francisco-based social media company promised a "full internal review" and said it was taking steps to prevent it happening again.

It declined further explanation, raising questions not only about its own safeguards but on Mr Trump's heavy reliance on a single platform to broadcast his views.

While Twitter's customer service employees have the ability to suspend or remove accounts, or delete individual tweets, over violations of service terms, they cannot post on someone else's account. What's less clear is if the company has tougher safeguards for taking action on higher-profile accounts, such as Mr Trump's.

"It's not surprising that even the brief shutdown of the president's Twitter account has provoked debate," said Jameel Jaffer, executive director of Columbia University's Knight First Amendment Institute, which filed a federal lawsuit last month challenging Mr Trump's practice of blocking Twitter users who criticise him or his policies.

Twitter has struggled in recent months in how it enforces, and explains, its procedures for managing accounts that violate its policies designed to prevent hate, harassment and other abuse of the platform. That's why when Trump's account went dark Thursday, some observers assumed it was a formal rebuke. His critics celebrated.

"Dear Twitter employee who shut down Trump's Twitter: You made America feel better for 11 minutes," wrote Congressman Ted Lieu, a California Democrat, who offered to buy the unidentified employee a pizza.

Other critics suggested the lull was too brief, or speculated the disgruntled employee was an antagonist from the public sphere.

Irish Independent

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