Since the 2016 election campaign season,
On Thursday night, Trump's account -- which has accumulated 41.7 million followers since Trump joined the site in March 2009 -- was briefly deactivated by a rogue customer support employee on their last day of work at Twitter, according to the company. Trump's account was offline starting around 7 p.m. ET on Thursday for about 11 minutes. During that time, visitors to his account would see a message reading: "Sorry, that page doesn’t exist!". While his account was only unavailable for a limited time, the fact that a single employee at
"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," the company later tweeted from its official Twitter Government page. "We are conducting a full internal review."
Trump has tweeted on the site through his @realDonaldTrump account more than 36,000 times. Twitter has deliberately suspended the accounts of high-profile figures in the past, such as alt-right figurehead Milo Yiannopoulos, for breaking the site's community standards or terms. However, Thursday's incident appears to be the first time an employee allegedly shutdown an account of a public figure on their own. The incident sparked a host of reactions, from glee that the account disappeared, to confusion and concern about the fragility of the site.
Thursday's event comes at a time when social media companies are facing rising public concern about their autonomy and massive public influence. Twitter and Facebook have come under withering criticism by lawmakers and the public for failing to protect their platforms from bad actors. The companies testified in a series of three Congressional hearings on Tuesday and Wednesday in Capitol Hill, dedicated mainly to probing Kremlin-linked election meddling on their sites through political ads and inflammatory content.
On Monday, Twitter said it identified and removed 2,752 accounts connected to the Kremlin-linked organization the Internet Research Agency, substantially more than the 201 fraudulent accounts the company reported finding in an initial review last month. Last week, Twitter banned advertising from all accounts owned by Russia Today (RT) and Sputnik based on findings by the U.S. intelligence community that both entities attempted to interfere with the U.S. presidential election on behalf of the Russian government. Twitter earlier disclosed that RT bought $274,100 of ads on Twitter in 2016.Under federal law, foreign governments and foreign nationals are prohibited from making contributions or spending money to influence a federal, state or local election in the U.S.