Last Thursday, shortly before 10 pm, a rogue employee on his last day of work at Twitter deactivated Donald Trump’s account. The account was down for an incredible eleven minutes before someone at Twitter reinstated it, prompting many users to express their joy at it’s disappearance. Tweets such as “I think we just came together as a nation for 23 seconds” and “Those few precious minutes were like when Andy played the opera record over the Shawshank PA system.” abounded. And now the new @realDonaldTrump is back, POTUS is once again able to abuse it at will.
What’s interesting here is that Trump’s isn’t the first popular Twitter account to be deactivated – in fact, it sounds like deactivating accounts as a ‘last day tradition’ is quite prevalent among Twitter employees. That Trump’s account was down for eleven minutes may be the reason so many people noticed, but the sheer idea of Twitter employees having enough power to deactivate one of the most popular account as what – a prank? is a little disconcerting and it suggests that security at Twitter HQ is questionable to say the least.
About the incident, Twitter said “Update: We have implemented safeguards to prevent this from happening again. We won’t be able to share all details about our internal investigation or updates to our security measures, but we take this seriously and our teams are on it”. So it really isn’t clear what measures if any the social media company will take to try and ensure this kind of action doesn’t happen again, and it doesn’t seem Twitter is forthcoming with more information on the subject.
Former Twitter employees have also come forward to share their concerns about how many employees have the power to deactivate accounts at will, and say that these concerns span back years. There is also concern about contractors around the world being given that opportunity as well, making it very hard for Twitter to keep control over who is doing what at any given moment. A former employee told The Verge “People pressed to say, there needs to be some kind of escalation flow, or prioritization flow…Someone in Singapore can’t be the person to make a 3-second decision on whether to suspend a verified account. I don’t know where that exists today. My hope is that those flows exist. If not, that’s pretty scary.” I tend to agree.