On Thursday November 2nd, the @realDonaldTrump Twitter account was deleted by a contracted Twitter employee on their last day of work.
For an entire eleven minutes, the world spun ‘round without the American president’s quick fingered commentary.
While others criticised…
Regardless of how the internet reacted – with giddy happiness or indignant outrage – the ramifications of the president’s involuntary eleven minute hiatus will not be amusing for Twitter or for the unnamed contractor responsible for the account’s deletion.
In fact, the stunt called left Twitter exposed to major criticism not only from supporters of Donald Trump, but also from those previously critical of the platform’s rocky track record of security issues stemming from internal —–.
These concerns run deep, evidenced by the concerns expressed by internal employee sources regarding contracted customer support employees’ access to “high status” accounts like the president’s. Twitter vowed on Thursday to implement security measures to prevent a similar event from happening again, but skepticism and a lack of confidence in the platform going forward might be tough to dispel.
In the words of one former employee who spoke to The Verge’s Casey Newton, “You want to believe that Twitter has gone above and beyond to build tooling and redundancies that prevent any human error around this account given how consequential one tweet could be.”
The point here seems to be that even if you are glad that Trump was temporarily silenced, the mistake actually brings to light a greater security issue: the possibility of a third party hacking into incredibly powerful social accounts and wreaking havoc.
And for this employee?
Computer law experts are advising this rogue to find an attorney, and find one fast. Federal officials might be tempted to prosecute, citing the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act – an anti-hacking law used in cases where an individual accesses a computer or information without authorization.
If prosecutors can argue that the individual did not have authorized access to delete a user’s account, the jokester could be in trouble. On the other hand, if an investigation reveals that Twitter gives employees this ability to delete accounts, paired with little to no discouragement of abusive behavior, the employee is less at risk.
This main question of the robustness of Twitter’s security measures brings us back to the heart of recent criticisms of the social platform – its weak safeguards against employee misuse.
A superficial look at the disappearance of the @realDonaldTrump is an eye catching headline and a great opportunity to make a fuss about censorship and engage in some right vs. left combat, but we’re interested in something deeper…
And that is the waning health of one of social media’s biggest pioneers. Whether or not Twitter will be able to come back from such a massive blow to its security and integrity is yet to be determined, but this intersection of social media and politics might just be a fatal blow.