- President Donald Trump’s Twitter account was taken offline by a departing employee for 11 minutes on Thursday night, and it’s a glaring security issue. What if the employee instead had composed a tweet bashing a company’s stock, or declaring war on North Korea?
For 11 minutes on Thursday night, the world experienced a first: US President Donald Trump was not on Twitter.
Trump’s account was temporarily kicked offline by a Twitter employee. At first, Twitter said it was an “inadvertent” human error. The company followed up a couple of hours later, however, and said the incident was caused by a “customer support employee who did this on the employee’s last day of work,” suggesting it may not have been an accident.
Trump critics quickly cheered the nameless Twitter support staffer as a hero; others laughed at the incident as one more humorous episode in a year in which politics-as-usual has become the theater of the absurd.
But there’s really nothing funny or commendable about the momentary unplugging of the @realdonaldtrump account. In fact, it’s terrifying.
Trump’s Twitter account is an unprecedented phenomenon. The most powerful person in the world has a megaphone to say whatever comes across his mind instantly. There’s no filter; no time delay; no take-backs.
Twitter has refused to provide any details about how this unique and powerful account in its care is operated and safeguarded. Obviously, there are important security reasons for this, and that’s why there hasn’t been very much public insistence for Twitter to be more transparent.
But the fact that the US president was able to be silenced, even just for 11 minutes, by a Twitter support staffer is not a reassuring sign. It suggests that whatever safeguards Twitter has in place for Trump’s account suffer from some major deficiencies.
We don’t really know what level of access various Twitter employees have to user accounts. Hopefully this staffer had only the ability to suspend the account and not to actually access it. But we have no idea.
Just think, what if the rogue support staffer on his last day decided to do something different. What if, instead of taking Trump’s account offline, the staffer decided to fire off a tweet on Trump’s account? Perhaps the staffer might have had Trump say something idiotic or embarrassing. Perhaps the staffer might have had Trump bash a company’s stock, in hopes of trading ahead of it and make a quick buck.
Or perhaps the departing Twitter employee might have composed a tweet declaring that missiles had been fired at an enemy regime like North Korea.
Twitter has control over an internet-age nuclear weapon. We can’t afford to trust that Twitter knows how to take care of it.
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