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Meet the man who deactivated Trump's Twitter account

Meet the man who deactivated Trump's Twitter account
From TechCrunch - November 29, 2017

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s Twitter tries to figure out how to lock down the parts of its platform that enable harassment, as well as the spread of misleading information and illicit content, there have been a number of moments that highlight how the service, and its levers of control, are far from perfect.

One such moment took place earlier this month, when the very active, very watched Twitter account of President Donald Trump was abruptly deactivated for 11 minutes.The man responsible for those 11 minutes moved back home to Germany, and he agreed to speak to TechCrunch about what happened that day.

U.S. President Donald Trumplong ago realizedthat you can use Twitter as an effective mouthpiece without all the pain and price of dealing with the media. Trumps Twitter account (36.5Ktweets and counting) has become one of the most popular ones out there today, with 43.5 million followers and growing by several hundred thousand a week. Its also one of the most notorious, because of his flippant jokes, insults, rants and controversial retweets.

So for those who havent been happy with Trumpand judging by the popular vote results from the 2016 election, that accounted for a majority of voters in the U.S. those deactivated 11 minutes became a burst of unexpected joy.

Twitter, in its turn for more transparency, quickly announced that the accounts shutdown was accidental. Moments later, it followed up with more information: a contractor, on his last day of work, was responsible.

The story could have ended there, but it didnt.

Reporters started immediately trying to find the now-former Twitter contractor to try to figure out what happened. If it was an accident, how could it happen? If it was intentional, why did it happen?

We were among those looking for the contractor, and through a string of events found out his name, Bahtiyar Duysak, and got him to agree to talk to us in a town in Germany.

Duysak, a twenty-something with Turkish roots who was born and raised in Germany, was working as a contractor for a fixed term for the last part of his stay in the U.S. under a work and study visa. In addition to his role at Twitter with Pro Unlimited, other assignments had included stints in monetization at Google and YouTube via another contractor, Vaco.

Many have wondered on Twitter why Trumps account has never been shut down for violating Twitters terms (among the reasons people have given is that he has threatened North Korea with nuclear violence) while others have been calling for people to report him using Twitters reporting tools for offensive tweets.

At Twitter, Duysak had been assigned to customer support as part of the Trust and Safety division. This team receives alerts when users report bad behavior, including offensive or illegal tweets, harassment, someone impersonating another person and so on. The team performs triage on complaints to determine what further steps, if any, should be taken.

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uysak, medium in stature and wearing a black and gray cardigan with a pattern of the American flag across it (not something he planned, laughing a little in surprise when he made the connection between it and the story), is a personable guy. Hes quick to smile; hes close to his family and has a big network of friends; and he speaks with a certain kind of indeterminate European accentthe kind you often hear from people who have traveled, lived and studied across different countries. Hes more Euro than bro.

His last day at Twitter was mostly uneventful, he says. There were many goodbyes, and he worked up until the last hour before his computer access was to be shut off. Near the end of his shift, the fateful alert came in.

This is where Trumps behavior intersects with Duysaks work life. Someone reported Trumps account on Duysaks last day; as a final, throwaway gesture, he put the wheels in motion to deactivate it. Then he closed his computer and left the building.

Several hours later, the panic began. Duysak tells us that it started when he was approached by a woman whom he didnt know very well. According to Duysak, the woman said that she had been contacted by someone asking about Duysak in connection with Trumps Twitter account. After a moment of disbelief, he said he then looked at the news and realized what had happened.

Duysak describes the event as a mistake. Specifically, he told us, he never thought the account would actually get deactivated.

In fact, it appeared that Trumps account was essentially protected from being deactivated over Terms of Service violations. In June, Twitter explained why: Some tweets that seemingly violate its terms of service are nevertheless newsworthy and therefore in the public interest to keep up.

One takeaway from Twitters exemption for newsworthy tweets is that news and information trump judgment calls on the relative toxicity of the content, which is probably apt in our age of toxicity dressed up as news.

Trumps election has signaled a high water mark for how people with opposing views on politics and other flashpoint subjects interact. Perhaps more than ever, people spin stories in ways that fit their own agendas.

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