The Twitter account operated by the US government agency responsible for immigration and deportations was down for several hours on Thursday afternoon, replaced by a message saying the account no longer exists, after Twitter said the date of birth for the account user was switched to make them younger than the minimum age of 13.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) regularly posted alerts on Twitter about the work of their team.
On Thursday the account was showing an error message from around midday until 4pm.
They said the error was due to “technical glitches”.
Twitter told The Independent: "Twitter requires people using the service to be 13 years of age or older.
"If an account’s birthdate is changed to a day/month/year prior to that and our systems identify content posted by the account before they were 13 years old, they will be locked out of the account.
“The account has been reinstated. ”
They would not comment on whether the age switch was done internally by ICE, or was an issue on their end.
The government agency, with more than 20,000 law enforcement and support personnel in more than 400 offices in the United States and around the world, is one of the most controversial arms of the US government.
Its targeting of immigrants for deportation has made it despised by many, and the campaign slogan “Abolish ICE” is frequently seen at anti-government protests.
ICE was formed in 2003, and its account had 459,000 followers.
Federal documents - including a government Twitter page - must by law be preserved and archived.
Under the Presidential Records Act, anyone causing damage costing more than $1,000 can be sent to prison for up to 10 years.
"Whoever wilfully injures or commits any depredation against any property of the United States, or of any department or agency thereof, or any property which has been or is being manufactured or constructed for the United States, or any department or agency thereof, or attempts to commit any of the foregoing offences, shall be punished as follows:
“If the damage or attempted damage to such property exceeds the sum of $1,000, by a fine under this title or imprisonment for not more than ten years, or both; if the damage or attempted damage to such property does not exceed the sum of $1,000, by a fine under this title or by imprisonment for not more than one year, or both.”
In July Twitter was thrown into chaos after accounts for some of the world’s most recognisable public figures, executives and celebrities - Barack Obama, Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Joe Biden and Jeff Bezos among them - starting tweeting out links to bitcoin scams.
Twitter said the attack happened because someone tricked or coerced an employee into providing access to internal Twitter administrative tools.
Graham Ivan Clark, 17, of Tampa, Florida, was arrested and charged with 30 felony counts related to the hacking.
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