During the brief period of downtime, shortly before 4pm Pacific time (11pm GMT), anyone going to the @realDonaldTrump Twitter page would see the message “Sorry, that page doesn’t exist!”
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After widespread speculation about what had happened, Twitter initially said the account had been inadvertently deactivated “due to human error by a Twitter employee”.
“The account was down for 11 minutes, and has since been restored. We are continuing to investigate and are taking steps to prevent this from happening again,” the company said in a statement.
But soon after the company’s @Twittergov account posted another statement revealing the outage was due to an employee’s action on their final day in the job .
“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,” the new statement said.
The company did not immediately reply to Guardian requests to clarify the process.
The company’s first statement had already stirred some speculation on its own site that a “rogue employee” had been responsible.
There have been continuing calls for Twitter to suspend Trump’s account, particularly when he made threats to North Korea. However, when Twitter does this it typically marks the profile with the message “account suspended”.
Before Twitter’s statement, some speculated that Trump himself may have deactivated his account or he may have been hacked. He has been criticized in the past for having poor security standards, continuing to use an old, unsecured Android phone when he moved into the White House instead of trading it for a secure, encrypted device approved by the Secret Service.
Twitter suspends accounts if they engage in abusive behavior, if they’ve been hacked or if they are fake or promote spam. The San Francisco-based company has in the past suspended high-profile individuals including the rightwing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, after his sustained hate campaign against the actor Leslie Jones, and the rapper Azealia Banks, who spouted racist venom at the pop singer Zayn Malik.
Trump, who has more than 40 million followers on Twitter, is known for his love of the medium.
“It’s like owning your own newspaper – without the losses,” Trump said of the social media tool in 2012.
Ascending to the highest office in the United States hasn’t reined in his 140-character outpourings, despite his promise in November 2016 to be “very restrained, if I use it at all” in his social media use once he became president.
In the last year, he’s used the platform to hint about changing decades of policy on nuclear weapons; praised Vladimir Putin as “very smart”, even after intelligence agencies said Russia tried to influence the US election; sent abusive tweets to a female journalist and made veiled threats about nuclear war.
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