Shortly before 7 p.m. ET Thursday, social media reports surfaced that the president’s personal account, @RealDonaldTrump, was unavailable, providing the error message that the user “does not exist.” The account was restored by 7:03 p.m.
Twitter took responsibility for the outage. In a tweeted statement, the company said Trump’s account was “inadvertently deactivated due to human error” by one of its employees. The account was unreachable for 11 minutes.
The contractor who (supposedly) shut down Donald Trump’s Twitter account told Reuters he did so by mistake, but says he believes some of the U.S. president’s recent tweets breach the social network’s ban on hate speech. Bahtiyar Duysak, 28, said he clicked “a few wrong things which I shouldn’t have done” on Nov. 2, his last day at Twitter, causing Trump’s @realDonaldTrump account – which has 44 million followers – to be taken offline for 11 minutes.
At the time, Twitter blamed a customer support employee on their last day at work and has since said it has taken steps to prevent such an incident happening again. Trump blamed a “rogue employee” for the temporary loss of his account.
In an interview in Frankfurt, Duysak told Reuters he wasn’t paying attention when a complaint came in an hour before he was to leave Twitter’s San Francisco office for the last time, after cutting short a six-month assignment.
He thought he was dealing with one of many fake Trump accounts.
“You should always double-check things before taking an action,” Duysak told Reuters Television.
Twitter later said the deactivation “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 said.
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. https://t.co/mlarOgiaRF
— Twitter Government (@TwitterGov) November 3, 2017
Trump has made extensive use of messages on Twitter to attack his opponents and promote his policies both during the 2016 presidential campaign and since taking office in January. He has 41.7 million followers on Twitter.
“Great Tax Cut rollout today. The lobbyists are storming Capital Hill, but the Republicans will hold strong and do what is right for America!” he wrote in his first tweet after Thursday’s outage.
Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey’s account was briefly suspended as a result of what he said was an internal mistake in a similar incident last November.
The deletion comes at a moment when technology companies, including Twitter, face sharp attack from U.S. lawmakers for failing to stem the spread of Russian propaganda and misinformation on their platforms.
Twitter, in particular, has long faced criticism for not doing enough to police its platform and respond to complaints of abuse.
The temporary deletion of the Trump account sparked a flood of criticism on Twitter itself.
Reuters could not determine how many Twitter employees had the authority to delete accounts or tamper with them in in other ways, such as by sending counterfeit Tweets.
Twitter has not confirmed whether Duysak was the ex-employee responsible. The company declined to comment on Duysak’s actions or its investigation into the matter when contacted by Reuters.
Duysak said that some of Trump’s posts since the incident – in particular his retweeting of anti-Islamic videos posted by a British far-right fringe group – were a breach of Twitter’s rules banning hate speech.
“You don’t need to be an expert to understand that a policy violation has happened, that the rules were broken and that this can lead to hatred being spread,” he said.
Twitter said it had no comment, and the White House did not respond to a request for comment.