Twitter employee briefly shuts Trump account, putting controls in question

U.S. President Trump speaks about Iran and the Iran nuclear deal at the White House in Washington
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks about Iran and the Iran nuclear deal in front of a portrait of President George Washington in the Diplomatic Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., October 13, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

November 3, 2017

By Dustin Volz

(Reuters) – Twitter Inc faced questions on Friday about its approach to internal security after a company employee briefly deactivated U.S. President Donald Trump’s account.

The 11-minute blackout of the @realDonaldTrump account late on Thursday drew widespread attention to the microblogging site.

Trump frequently uses Twitter to announce policy, assail his adversaries and to tangle with countries, including North Korea, over world affairs. Some users voiced fears that future employee interference or technology glitches involving Trump’s account could threaten national security.

The incident also came as Twitter grapples with overall criticism of its handling of account suspensions, user abuse and ever-changing terms of service.

Twitter said in a tweet on Friday: “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.”

A company representative declined to answer questions including how many employees can suspend an account or what special protections there are for high-profile users like Trump.

Trump was back on Twitter soon after the account was restored, and the employee did not send or alter any tweets.

Cyber security experts had previously speculated Twitter could have installed special protections on Trump’s account, such as the ability to only access it from certain devices.

“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,” Twitter said in a tweet late on Thursday.

“We are continuing to investigate and are taking steps to prevent this from happening again,” the company said in an earlier tweet.

Reuters could not determine how many Twitter employees had the authority to delete accounts or if any had the ability to tamper with them in other ways, such as by sending bogus tweets.

“In all seriousness: We need accountability for social media sites,” Ken Meyer, who served as digital director for former Vice President Joe Biden, tweeted. “Lone employees shouldn’t be able to change statements from the President.”

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a former Twitter employee said it was unlikely a worker with suspension privileges would also be able to hijack an account to send out messages.

“Different types of access,” the former employee said. “I’m not sure anyone at Twitter can tweet from someone else’s account.”

Another person familiar with Twitter operations, speaking on condition of anonymity, said employees currently cannot post from a user’s account, change or even view a user’s password, which is encrypted.

Joseph Lorenzo Hall, chief technologist at the nonprofit Center for Democracy and Technology, said the suspension reflected a need for Twitter to be more transparent about its ability to control accounts but also demonstrated the perils of a head of state relying on digital technology as a primary mode of communication.

“It would be nice to rely on older forms of policy communication with solid foundations,” he said, adding that Twitter should require two-person controls for certain high-profile accounts.

The New York Times on Friday reported the rogue employee was in fact a contractor, citing two anonymous sources familiar with the incident.

Twitter and other tech companies have ramped up their reliance on contractors due to pressure to respond more quickly and thoroughly to content violations.

While the companies “are desperately reliant upon human nuance and sophistication for decision making, human will is quite a risk,” Sarah Roberts, a UCLA professor who studies such contractors, said in a tweet. “Ain’t that a bind?”

The company on Friday separately announced minor updates to its rules, including more clarity on what actions could result in an account suspension. It was the latest in a string of iterative changes amid criticism the platform too slowly and inconsistently responds to abuse.

Twitter shares were up 1.9 percent in afternoon trading.

‘ROGUE ACCOUNT’

Trump, who has nearly 42 million Twitter followers, responded to the temporary loss of his account by boasting about his wide reach on the service.

“My Twitter account was taken down for 11 minutes by a rogue employee,” Trump said on Twitter early on Friday. “I guess the word must finally be getting out-and having an impact.”

He has used Twitter to attack opponents and promote his policies, both during the 2016 presidential campaign and since taking office in January.

Thursday’s incident also raised questions about how Twitter secures the official @potus presidential account and other accounts that could potentially influence world events.

Technology companies including Twitter are, meanwhile, under attack from U.S. lawmakers for failing to stem the spread of Russian propaganda and misinformation on their platforms.

Twitter in particular has long been criticized for not doing enough to police its platform and respond to complaints of harassment.

Though the temporary deletion of the Trump account sparked a flood of criticism from Twitter users, many of the president’s critics also said they were happy to see the account disabled.

In 2013, hackers took control of the main account for the Associated Press and tweeted that explosions at the White House had injured then-President Barack Obama, causing stocks to briefly plunge.

(Reporting by Dustin Volz and David Ingram; Additional reporting by Shalini Nagarajan, Jonathan Weber and Jeffrey Dastin; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli and Bernadette Baum)

  • Mike

    “I’m not sure anyone at Twitter can tweet from someone else’s account”. Are you kidding? It doesn’t matter how many safeguards are put in place, there are always two persons who can hack just about anything at any corporation at any time. And in most cases it would be a hack, just simply unauthorized access.

  • TexasDeplorable1134

    Career wise he may be idolized by the liberals and on right he will be labeled a risk. Business wise he should never be trusted again with ANYONE’S data ever again.

  • intimeforthedime

    I think OAN should start a special feed just for Trump to type whatever he wants.
    And roll it directly under the news on OAN 24/7.

    And F Twitter and any other liberal based communications dump.

  • intimeforthedime

    Wait until Twitter, Facebook, or any of them decide to turn your accounts off due to them not liking your views.
    You will NOT get the same treatment as the US President. Your account will stay off.

    • Mike

      Oh it’s already happened. Geri Ungurean who is a writer for a Christian web site and who also posts opinion and such on FB has been banned. She penned an article about Mark Zuckerbergs relationship with SNOPES, thus enraging “someone” who had the inside abilities to permanently ban her from that site. It’s here.

  • Butthep

    Democrats and liberal medias want to do it?

  • Sui-Juris

    “We are not going to be able to publicly discuss these kinds of things,” a company spokesman said.

    hahahahahaha, ya, I guess not. The dirty little secret of the left’s not so secret politicization of social media.

  • porkexpress

    I take it that whoever, as their name should be posted, took Trump’s Twitter account off line obviously voted for Obama and Clinton. The swamp slime keeps getting worse and worse with Trump cleaning it up a little at a time. Why do we never hear about some people ever losing their jobs or being prosecuted for their own stupidity and breaking of our laws?

  • Michael Hawk

    Let us Hope 🙂

  • Clinicaleducator1

    SOMEONE needs some JAILTIME!!!! Lock the little bastard up!!!

  • hellhound55

    The leftist slime are everywhere and appear to be doing anything they can to derail, misinform, and fabricate information in their effort to take down the president and discredit anything and everything he says or does. The level of hatred and contempt is evidence that the right guy is in office. The corrupt establishment is in a meltdown since Trump won the election. The globalist agenda has been exposed, the corruption and criminal activities are coming to light….it is time to flush the Washington toilet and take out the trash once and for all. The fight will be long and difficult because the slime is entrenched in high levels of the government agencies and law enforcement as well. Rooting out and prosecuting these people will take time and collective effort…but it must be done to restore this country. MAGA

  • Comanche457

    This employee messed with the wrong account. I think people will find that since twitter is a communication format that crosses state lines that either the FCC or FBI may become involved. Not to mention he messed with a powerful man that believes in payback.

    • Michael Hawk

      I Am Hoping he Gets an “Off the Books” visit From the Men in Black. Lets See How Quickly THEY Adjust his “Attitude” ….Trump should make an Example Of HIM !!!…..Hell I Hate Clintons/Obamas among Others ..But Don’t think I would ever Expect To Get AWAY with what this guy Did Without a Visit ……………My Thought Scare The Hell out of Him and before you Leave make sure he Knows next time he wont be as Lucky 🙂 I just Saw the News and a Good Point was Made …What if this guy thought it would be Cool To Tweet We Just Bombed NK posing as Trump ? And People DIED as a Result ? Do we Understand This ? Gloves off time.

  • Deny

    I have been suspended for 14 days where I couldn’t tweet at all or even read twitter and I get 12 hours “shadow bans” at least twice a week. Someone I know has been suspended 2 times (and is on the 3rd account now). Twitter is DESPERATE to silence conservative voices. It does not surprise me that our President’s account was “silenced” for 11 minutes. Ten to one they’d pull the plug on Trump in a HEARTBEAT if they could get away with it!

  • Varangian Guard

    Twitter declines to comment.

    Twitter stacks the deck with fake accounts. All the social media platforms are fortified within by the varied revolutionary group’s steering agendas. Each one of them are also flooded with thousands of fake accounts by the same groups to steer conversations and “like” each other’s propaganda to make them seem relevant.
    Free Thinking adults be informed if you must be on socia media so you can be aware of the bs.
    Better yet, ditch the social media and start bettering yourself with books. Philosophy, history, science, current events. Let your mind get it’s candy from introspection and Analysis not the autofeed troughs of the social media sty

    • Comanche457

      I agree. It’s really surprising what knowledge and wisdom is contained in books. But wait, half of the people that graduate now cannot read proficiently due to our ultra liberal education system.

      • Varangian Guard

        Then natural selection takes over.
        The weak will perish

  • AtomicFury

    Ohhhh, but of course. It couldn’t possibly be anyone who’s currently employed there. Not Twitter, no way…

  • …remain calm and return fire

    Liars.

  • A marcus Young

    The Confederate Party is still full of venom and hate. Its time to take the party down like we took down their Confederate statues.

    • AtomicFury

      Take the Oscar statues too from those liberal pontiffs/rapists in Hollywood while you’re at it.

    • Comanche457

      What does your comment have to do with this article?

  • Dywlf

    So more evidence Twitter can’t control it’s liberal leftist employees.

    • A marcus Young

      Twitter IS the liberal left.

    • HarryObrian

      I voted for him and I think they did him a favor….

    • JakeXIII

      If someone had done this to Obama, every media outlet in the country would cry out that it was a racist Nazi who did it, and would want his head on a silver platter.

  • BT

    I just deleted my account for good because I don’t take any lecturing from people who engage in such shady practices as shadow banning. I just wish more people would leave that place for good.

    • A marcus Young

      Twitter is for Democrats only, apparently.

      • HarryObrian

        It’s more prudent and honest to use the term ‘anti-American’ when speaking of them.

  • tully bascomb

    Couldn’t have been the Russians because that only happens to Hillery.
    Sarcasm.

    • HarryObrian

      North Koreans no doubt…

  • TYvets

    Of all the accounts to make certain one does not accidentally deactivate.

  • Cavalls

    Twitter admitted in written testimony to Senate Judiciary Committee that it purposely hid almost one-half of tweets #DNCLeaks and about one-quarter of the tweets #PodestaEmails from searches in the last two months of the campaign so, no, it’s not credible Trump’s account was “inadvertently” deactivated.

    • Scott Henke

      Dammit, beat me to it.

    • HarryObrian

      Gee, and yet no one has figured out that the simple solution is to ignore the anti-American social media sites like Fakebook and Twatter…. friggin Tower of Babylon…

    • Michael Hawk

      I forgot about That ….

  • dmlinder

    I wish they would ban Trump… then he moves over to Gab, helps the right develop it own communication platform… and SJW twitter loses 20% of its subscriber base in one day and their share price TANKS.

    • DEPLORABLE #1,911,069

      Excellent idea!!!

    • HarryObrian

      One of the better ideas I’ve read in 9 years…. good post, thank you.

  • Gene

    So do we now have a new “left” definition of human error? As in “Trump made me do it”.

    • Scott Henke

      Trump Derangement Syndrome.

  • Malechamovitz

    Apparent to the most casual observer.

  • RMCS Ret.

    Talk about committing career suicide. Even if the supervisor agrees, you still stuck your foot in it.
    One thing I learned working in the tech field after I retired from the military. The people are very smart and very good at their job, but when it comes to a world view they are total ignoramuses. They are extremely liberal. Most are nice folks , just totally misguided. I was at a loss. A beer drinking, tobacco chewing sailor, stuck in the middle of a bunch of wine and cheese party libs. Did my best, might have even converted a couple with my smoked brisket. I stuck it out for 10 years then took my company retirement and ran.

    • HarryObrian

      The reality there is that many of them, although smart in their field, know they can be replaced in a second so they embrace the anti-American culture to protect them, otherwise they’d have to work for a living. The useless jobs that have been created in industry, healthcare and the government over the last 20 years by these anti-Americans are mind numbing.
      I too spent too much time as a conservative black sheep of the high tech industry.

    • TexasDeplorable1134

      Not all are liberal. I am a conservative. I experienced the entire H1B scam from the beginning. This is the reason it is very hard now a days to find a company that does not support this business model. Our existing laws for H1B needs to be trashed and re-established in a way that does not punish US citizens.

  • ShortSweet

    Where I come from, we call that a crock.

  • Comanche457

    Somebody is in deep do do.

    • A marcus Young

      Not really. The person was fired.