A former contractor from Germany has reportedly admitted to helping briefly deactivate President Trump's Twitter account in early November, an unprecedented mishap for the company that generated intrigue around the world.
The disclosure on the website TechCrunch caused a flurry of headlines but did little to clarify the details of how, exactly, the president's personal account was brought down for 11 minutes on Nov. 2.
According to TechCrunch, Bahtiyar Duysak was working as a contractor at Twitter's headquarters in San Francisco at the time. In the interview, the website said, Duysak apologized for his role in the deactivation. “I had a wild time in America, and I was tired sometimes, and everyone can do mistakes,” the website reported. “It might be that I did a mistake.”
The Washington Post has not been able to independently verify that Duysak was responsible for deactivating the president's account.
According to TechCrunch, Duysak was employed by contracting company Pro Unlimited and was working with Twitter’s trust and safety division, which monitors reports of bad behavior on the service, including harassment, offensive or illegal tweets or impersonation.
Someone had reported Trump’s account on Duysak’s last day at Twitter, and he “put the wheels in motion to deactivate it,” according to TechCrunch. It was not clear what steps the employee had taken, or whether other people at Twitter were involved.
Twitter, which said at the time that the deactivation was caused by an inadvertent error by an employee, has declined to identify the worker or provide more details about the episode. “We have taken a number of steps to keep an incident like this from happening again,” the company said in a statement Thursday.
Pro Unlimited did not respond to an immediate request for comment.
In a video interview with TechCrunch, Duysak seemed to hedge about his alleged role in @realDonaldTrump's deactivation and implied that other steps were involved in the shutdown. “If I’m involved in this, I really apologize if I hurt anyone; I didn’t do anything on purpose,” he said. “But ... not only one little mistake of one human being can lead to such a result. I think it’s all about a number of coincidences.”
Trump’s account was shut down on the service for 11 minutes. The episode raised questions about the security of political content on the site, and has become another tension point in the increasingly politicized debate about Twitter's service. For some conservatives aligned with Trump -- who have criticized the service as it has moved more aggressively to regulate tweets and users who encourage threats, spread false information and tweet slurs about race, gender or sexual orientation — the shutdown of the president's account was perceived as an attempt to censor them.
But some commenters, many of whom have called for Twitter to suspend or block the president, who has used his account to spread inflammatory content and misinformation, hailed the person who took it down.
In the interview, Duysak, who has since returned to Germany, described the account’s suspension not as a brave political statement but the result of “very little probabilities which randomly occurred on my last day of work.”
“There are millions of people who would take actions against him if they had that possibility,” he said on the TechCrunch video. “In my case, it was just random. I’m the unlucky or lucky victim who is being put, or who finds himself in the situation where millions of Americans would like to be.”
He denied that he took any actions for which he was not authorized or that were illegal. “I didn’t do any crime,” he said. “And I underline that I comply with all rules, and I underline that I didn’t break any rules.”
The episode does not appear to be the subject of any other investigations outside of Twitter. But reporters have scrambled to find and identify the person responsible.
Duysak said that he felt like the late Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar from all the attention.
“I don’t want to flee from the media. I want to speak to my neighbors. I want to speak to my friends,” he told TechCrunch. “I just want to continue ordinary life.”