News and Commentary

Twitter Blames ‘Outage’ After Trump Tweet, Naming Ukraine Whistleblower, Suddenly Disappears
In this photo illustration a popular micro blogging and social networking service Twitter logo seen displayed on a smartphone.
Photo Illustration by Avishek Das/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

On Friday, President Donald Trump retweeted a social media post featuring the name of the alleged whistleblower whose testimony about a phone call between Trump and Ukrainian officials kicked off the House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry. On Saturday, however, the president’s tweet mysteriously vanished for some users, leaving many to suggest that Twitter had deliberately censored the President’s account.

Twitter now says the incident was an error caused by an “outage.”

The tweet, which mentioned the whistleblower by name, came amid an extended, 55-Tweet “Twitter rant” by the president, attacking Democrats who want to bring witnesses at the president’s upcoming Senate impeachment trial, and suggesting that the president’s lawyers would welcome the development and send subpoenas demanding key characters, including the whistleblower, former Vice President Joe Biden, and Biden’s son Hunter, testify in front of the Senate during trial.

Friday night’s retweet marks the first time the president has actually used the name of the alleged whistleblower but his White House has been clear that the whistelblower should be required to come forward and outline what he or she heard, secondhand, about a phone call between the president and Ukrainian officials. So far, the whistleblower has filed a complaint and spoken, to some extent, to Sen. Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) office, but Democrats have repeatedly declined Republican requests to cross-examine the person who kicked off the inquiry to begin with.

This time, Trump retweeted an account, @Surfermom77, from a woman named “Sophia.” “The account shows some indications of automation,” the San Francisco Gate reported, “including an unusually high amount of activity and profile pictures featuring stock images from the internet,” though it is not clear whether the account was, in fact, run by a bot.

Some social media platforms, like Facebook and YouTube, have censored users who repeat the name of the alleged whistleblower, even if they have no affiliation with the Trump Administration (and even though the name of the whistleblower is still just an unsubstantiated rumor and photos, purporting to show the “whistleblower” actually appear to be photos of Obama Administration tech expert, R. David Edelman, and of George Soros’ son, Alex).

Both social media conglomerates claim using the name violates their terms of service, according to the New York Post, and both swiftly removed any mention of the alleged whistleblower from posts, notes, shared articles, videos and other uploaded content. Twitter, however, has said the name doesn’t violate their terms of service.

When the president’s retweet began disappearing from timelines on Saturday, though, Trump supporters — and even some journalists — noticed immediately and questioned whether Twitter had changed its mind. The company insisted, in a statement made Saturday night, that it was all just an honest mistake.

“Due to an outage with one of our systems, tweets on account profiles were visible to some, but not others. We’re still working on fixing this and apologize for any confusion,” they said, confirming that the president’s Twitter account was one of the accounts affected by the outage.

The Tweet was, in fact, restored.