US President Donald Trump’s personal Twitter account went down abruptly for about 11 minutes on Thursday evening, a brief deactivation the social media company blamed on an employee who was heading out the door.
Attempts to call up Trump’s personal page, @realDonaldTrump, turned up a message saying, “Sorry, that page doesn’t exist!”, prompting many Twitter users to send out screenshots. Within minutes, the account was once again available. The official feed for the US president, @POTUS, wasn’t affected.
“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,” the company tweeted, after citing inadvertent “human error” in an earlier post.
Twitter has mistakenly frozen accounts in the past. In 2016, CEO Jack Dorsey was locked out of his own for a few minutes. Dorsey said in a tweet that the suspension was “an internal mistake”. Users can also deactivate their own accounts. Once someone chooses to do so, Twitter retains that data for 30 days, after which it begins the process of deleting the information. An account can be reactivated during that period simply by logging in.
Twitter has come under fire from critics who say the company should banish Trump for violating its terms of service. The US president often uses Twitter to disseminate his thinking, sometimes making disparaging remarks. Twitter’s rules let the company suspend accounts for violent threats, gender-based attacks and other forms of abuse and harassment.
In June, Trump tweeted remarks aimed at MSNBC’s Morning Joe hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski: “I heard poorly rated @Morning_Joe speaks badly of me (don’t watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came…to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year’s Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!”
The next month, the US president posted a video in which he’s shown wrestling and punching a person whose head bears the CNN logo. Many said that tweet violated Twitter’s policies against violent threats and targeted abuse.
The fact that Twitter hasn’t closed Trump’s account appears to be “a violation of Twitter’s own rules”, Stephen Balkam, the founder of the Family Online Safety Institute, a nonprofit organisation that’s part of Twitter’s Trust and Safety Council, said in a recent interview. “If an ordinary citizen tweeted some of what he tweeted, I would think some of them would be taken down.” — Reported by Selina Wang, (c) 2017 Bloomberg LP