Temporary Deactivation of Trumps Twitter Carries an Important Message


Victoria Walker/The Washington Post

Thursday, November 2nd,  around 6:45 pm, the account @realDonaldTrump, the President’s personal twitter account, was deactivated by a Twitter employee on their last day. For eleven minutes users who went to the account were greeted with, “Sorry, that page doesn’t exist!”. At 7 pm the account was fully restored and by 8 pm Trump continued to tweet about his tax revision plan.

The Twitter company announced at around that same time that they have “implemented safeguards” to prevent it from occurring again and declined to share information about their investigation into the event. However, they did release that the deactivation was a manual action by a Twitter customer support employee.

For now there is no information about the employee who deactivated the account, even though many others on social media are hailing them as an 11 minute hero. There are rumors that the person responsible for the deactivation could face hacking charges.

According to BuzzFeed News, “‘a lot’ of employees have the ability to suspend a user’s account and that fewer, in the hundreds, can deactivate one,” but that it is relatively easy to use the system and control accounts.

Many were outraged that someone would have such power, and that Twitter offered so little protection, over the President’s account. Others expressed relief that the employee only chose to deactivate, pointing out that they could have announced a nuclear war with Korea, or worse.

For many, Trumps account is a place where 140 characters are official announcements, and where, during his campaign, he connected often with his voters to gain support, giving him an expansive following. The President himself even recognized the power his 41.7 million Twitter following has given him, telling Tucker Carlson in March, “Let me tell you about Twitter. I think maybe I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Twitter.”

During Trumps campaign and presidency, his personal twitter account has become a place where foreign policy, legislation, and his opinions are communicated to the public without a filter. He has tweeted threats at North Korea, announced that transgender people would no longer be allowed in the military, and complained about “fake news” networks. Some of his tweets, especially concerning threats of war against North Korea, were identified as as in violation of Twitter’s rules of conduct, but Twitter has declined to enact disciplinary action against the account.

The momentary deactivation of Trumps account was an important reminder for the American people, and the world, that twitter and other social media applications may not be the platform for which a president should communicate policy and his ideas to the American people. In addition, the deactivation shows how vulnerable individuals are in the age of social media.

Even though many have come to take the President’s personal Twitter as an official memo board, this only reaffirms the questionability of his Twitter. The unknown power someone could hold in the President’s account has been called out many times, a professor at the U.S. Naval War College even suggested that the president’s tweets could be collected and gathered for foreign intelligence.

Last Friday Trump addressed the deactivation, saying, “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.” Trump himself boasted of the power his account must have for it to be shut down.  Essentially @realDonaldTrump has become the vehicle for him to express his agenda and sudden whims. But, at the end of day, Trumps twitter is a social media account like anything else, and subject to the same vulnerability, even if his tweets, for some, carry more weight than others. It is up to the American people now, whether or not they will continue to validate this kind of communication from our President.