President Trump’s Twitter account got taken down by a rogue Twitter employee, and that’s a big deal.
Here’s why you should care: A handful of tech companies have power and influence as editorial gatekeepers and amplifiers. That power is growing and, increasingly, it’s coming under scrutiny.
This week, executives from Twitter (TWTR, Tech30), Facebook (FB, Tech30) and Google (GOOG) were grilled on Capitol Hill. The topic at hand: Were the platforms weaponized by a hostile nation to affect the 2016 presidential election?
And then, while we’re asking if tech companies have too much power, an employee at one of those companies was able to take the President’s Twitter microphone away.
Trump’s account only disappeared for 11 minutes. But it was a telling moment and has become part of the conversation about tech companies and their uncomfortable (and seemingly uncontrollable) role as gatekeepers.
Some lawmakers — not to mention the public — believe the companies aren’t always just neutral platforms, and that they are not transparent enough about how they work and the decisions they make.
A Twitter employee with the power to silence the president may be an extreme example, but every day the company makes decisions on content.
The gatekeepers are increasingly being asked to explain those decisions.
Internally, Twitter is scrambling to figure out what happened with @RealDonaldTrump on Thursday night. The company will probably add new safeguards so fewer employees can access an account like Trump’s going forward, but it’s a moment worth looking at.