Opinions: Twitter employee’s account takedown not the way to go

Addressing the president’s questionable use of social media will have to come through professional means

Laura Melczer // Contributor

On Nov. 3, Donald Trump vanished from Twitter for 11 minutes. Unfortunately, it was not because he had seen the light and decided to change the way he utilizes the popular social media platform, it was because a Twitter employee decided to take down the account on his last day of work.

Although many deemed the action to be one of heroism, the employee’s decision to deactivate the president’s much-maligned account is an inappropriate use of power and an ineffective way of addressing Trump’s head-scratching use of social media.

Trump’s use of Twitter throughout his presidency has sparked considerable controversy. Criticism has been directed at the content of his account, which The Verge described as “insults, boasts, odd syntax, or misinformation about terrorism.” Some of his tweets have also blurred the lines with calls to violence that goes against Twitter’s rules.

While the way the president uses Twitter is questionable at best, and irresponsible and reckless at worst, it does not mean the Twitter employee had the right to deactivate his account. Even on their last day, the employee’s decision to play God crossed a workplace boundary. There are certain times when bringing one’s personal politics into the workplace is acceptable and encouraged – like in a respectful discussion during lunch – but utilizing a seemingly omnipotent ability to eliminate the very existence of an account is not only an abusive use of power, it is also an ineffective way of addressing Trump’s social media use.

This is not to advocate for the way in which Trump uses Twitter. His account is made up mostly of disrespectful remarks and official announcements coming from the Oval Office. His use of Twitter borders on belittling and he routinely uses the platform to make petty and unnecessary comments on seemingly minute issues that have very little relevance to his presidential responsibilities. Yet the employee’s decision to silence Trump’s account only succeeded in acquiring 11 minutes of internet notoriety. Trump was back to tweeting the same mind-numbing content that he always does, just minutes after Twitter reinstated his account.

More dangerously, the actions of the employee could lead to a domino effect that can compromise Twitter’s integrity. If a Twitter employee has the power to shut down the president’s account, imagine what the social media giant can do to other vocal users. Regardless of whether a user leans right or left, if a Twitter moderator who happens to disagree with them has the power to remove their voice, then a dangerous precedent is being set.

Yes, Trump’s tweets are almost always nonsensical, and often border on the vile and vitriolic spread of fake news, but reprimanding him should come from the hands of the powers that be. If Trump is routinely violating the social media platform’s rules, then action must come from the top, not from some employee. If anyone within Twitter’s operational team can silence the President of the United States of America, then popular social media platforms are a lot more powerful and dangerous than imagined.

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