The deactivation of President Donald Trump's Twitter account by a rogue employee was the most public sign yet that Twitter's greatest star can also cause the company great headaches.
Twitter blamed the incident— which took Mr. Trump's @realdonaldtrump account offline for 11 minutes late Thursday—on actions taken by a customer-support employee on his or her last day of work. Twitter said it was taking measures “to prevent this from happening again.”
Inside Twitter, the brief deactivation elicited celebration or amusement even in the upper ranks. A couple of hours after the deactivation of Mr. Trump's account, Twitter Chief Executive Jack Dorsey liked a tweet with an image of his face superimposed on celebrity painter Bob Ross standing before a canvas depicting Mr. Trump's deactivated account. “There are no mistakes, only happy little accidents!” the caption said.
A spokesman for Twitter declined to comment. Like many tech companies, Twitter's workforce is young and concentrated in the left leaning Bay Area. Employees of Twitter donated $4,060 to Mr. Trump's campaign from 2015 to 2016. During the same period, about 100 employees donated about $122,612 directly to “Hillary for America.”
This disconnect between Twitter's employees and the company's most closely watched user has fueled tension within the company. One former employee said that deleting Mr. Trump's account was a “running joke” among employees about things they wanted to do on their last day. Lara Cohen, Twitter's former head of entertainment and talent partnerships, retweeted a post about the rogue employee that said, “Not all heroes wear capes.”
Former Twitter executive Adam Sharp said Silicon Valley tech companies haven't done a good job recruiting conservatives. “The underrepresentation there is as least as pronounced as the more talked about gender and race spheres,” said Mr. Sharp, now a technology consultant.
“Social media platforms and shareable networks have continued to show an implicit liberal bias,” said Jenna Ellis, a fellow at the Centennial Institute, a conservative think tank at Colorado Christian University.
A Twitter representative declined to comment. Further complicating Twitter's relationship with the president is that Mr. Trump's use of Twitter as a primary communication tool has helped the social network, tech analysts say, as it attempts to reignite user growth. Twitter's user growth has largely stalled over the past two years; during the first quarter, Mr. Trump added 8.9 million followers among Twitter users. In the same period, Twitter drew nearly 9 million new monthly users to the site.
Early Friday, Mr. Trump addressed the controversy in a tweet. “My Twitter account was taken down for 11 minutes by a rogue employee. I guess the word must finally be getting out—and having an impact.”
President's use of Twitter as a primary communication tool has helped the site.
Critics of the president say that his use of the platform— such as by threatening to attack North Korea if the country acts “unwisely,” as Mr. Trump did this summer— sometimes violates Twitter's rules. Twitter also considers the newsworthiness of a tweet when deciding whether to take action.
“The public's interest is to hear the president speak,” says Danielle Citron, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Law who studies online harassment. She has advised Twitter since 2009 and is a member of Twitter's Trust and Safety Council. “The tweets can be costly, inciting racism and distrust and worse, but they still are the words of our president.”
The president has said in the past that he believes Twitter is the best way for him to connect directly with his supporters. He has bragged about his follower count in media interviews.
BY NATALIE ANDREWS AND GEORGIAWELLS