On Thursday, 2 November 2017, US president Donald Trump’s beloved Twitter account was shut down for a total of 11 minutes before administrators realised what had happened and reinstated it. The company then released the following statement:
“Through our investigation we have learned that this wad done by a Twitter customer support employee who did this on the employee’s last day. We are conducting a full internal review.”
The president seemed to think that the temporary deletion of his social media account was a good thing.
“My Twitter account was taken down for 11 minutes by a rogue employee,” he wrote when the account was back online. “I guess the word must finally be getting out-and having an impact.”
My Twitter account was taken down for 11 minutes by a rogue employee. I guess the word must finally be getting out-and having an impact.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 3, 2017
The president didn’t waste time mulling over the serious security breach, and went right back to tweeting about “Crooked Hillary”, the Democrats, and the “disgraceful” lack of coverage the political story was getting on “Fake News Network TV”.
When users began to see the message “@realdDonaldTrump does not exist” on the social media platform, they started suggesting that the employee responsible be commemorated with statues, or become a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize.
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
Others said that the Twitter employee had achieved what Trump was reportedly trying to do this whole time: “Yesterday, for the eleven minutes that Donald Trump’s Twitter account was shut down, America was great again,” Bill Palmer, a political journalist, wrote on his account.
Yesterday, for the eleven minutes that Donald Trump's Twitter account was shut down, America was great again.
— Palmer Report (@PalmerReport) November 3, 2017
While Trump-haters can continue to poke fun at the social media stunt, others are warning that it’s not something to celebrate, especially since a New York Times article suggested that the employee responsible was a third-party contractor rather than a full-time employee.
“[If] a temp/contractor can shut down Trump’s Twitter acct, what happens when someone hijacks it & ‘announces’ ICBMs headed for North Korea?” Howard Fineman, editorial director of Huffington Post, wrote.
Fineman makes a good point: Twitter has previously refused to step in and delete controversial tweets made by the US president. In late September, Trump posted the following message on his account:
“Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at U.N. If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won’t be around much longer!”
Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at U.N. If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won't be around much longer!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 24, 2017
What basically amounted to a public threat made against a world leader who has been very open about the prospect of aiming nuclear missiles at the United States was not something that Twitter was willing to take down. The social media giant claimed that the comments were “newsworthy” and in the public interest.
“We hold all accounts to the same rules, and consider a number of factors when assessing whether tweets violate our rules,” Twitter said in a statement. “Among the considerations is ‘newsworthiness’ and whether a tweet is of public interest. This has long been internal policy and we’ll soon update our public-facing rules to reflect it. We need to do better on this, and will. Twitter is committed to transparency and keeping people informed about what’s happening in the world. We’ll continue to be guided by these fundamental principles.”
To some, 11 minutes may not seem like much. But if a scenario like the one Fineman put forth comes to pass, the time Twitter spends trying to work out whether Trump is on a rampage or someone has hacked in to his account for a joke could be catastrophic.