Twitter shuts down a journalist’s account: Bigger deal.
Twitter shuts down the account of a journalist critical of a company that is partnering with Twitter: Big deal.
It’s that last scenario that just unfolded, to the dismay of Guy Adams, who serves as a Los Angeles-based correspondent for The Independent of London. Adams publishes his quips under the Twitter handle @guyadams, and those familiar with his work of late know exactly where he stands on NBC’s broadcast of the London Olympics.
guyadams Guy Adams
America’s left coast forced to watch Olympic ceremony on SIX HOUR time delay. Disgusting money-grabbing by @NBColympics http://t.co/bQxKCCdj
4 days ago
And here’s the tweet that got him in trouble with Twitter:
guyadams Guy Adams
The man responsible for NBC pretending the Olympics haven’t started yet is Gary Zenkel. Tell him what u think! Email: Gary.email@example.com
See that? That’s an e-mail address right there. The note that informed Adams of his suspension says this, in part:
Your account has been suspended for posting an individual’s private information such as private email address, physical address, telephone number, or financial documents.
This Twitter page details the sorts of disclosures that can get you banned from the platform:
credit card information
social security or other national identity numbers
addresses or locations that are considered and treated as private
non-public, personal phone numbers
non-public, personal email addresses
The question that Twitter faces here is whether the e-mail address that Adams tweeted out is actually a “non-public, personal email” address. Given that it’s clearly the corporate address for Gary Zenkel, it doesn’t appear to qualify as a suspension-triggering offense. Zenkel’s title is listed as “President, NBC Olympics, Executive Vice President, Strategic Partnerships.” And the address that Adams disclosed follows a corporate formula for NBC e-mails that reaches many thousands of NBC employees. How that qualifies as a non-public, personal e-mail address is something that Twitter will have to explain.
In a quick phone interview, Adams declines to answer most question on the record. However, he does concede that there’s a legitimate reason to have banning mechanisms: “It’s right that Twitter have guidelines that stop rabble-rousing. I’d hate to think that a tweet of mine would see someone physically abused. It’s highly unlikely — it’s not like publishing someone’s postal address or Social Security number,” says Adams.
Were Adams a reporter for the New York Times or the Los Angeles Times, he may have trouble not only with Twitter, but also with his editors. The e-mail-divulging tweet, after all, comes off as crusading journalism, reflecting a strong point of view and an activist’s imperative to get complainants directly into contact with NBC brass. But Adams works for a British paper, so that’s all fine.
Several parts of this story are nailed hard: That Adams has been suspended from Twitter; that the e-mail tweet was the impetus for the suspension; that the e-mail disclosure apparently violates privacy rules at Twitter; that Adams has been a fiery critic of NBC’s Olympic coverage; and that NBC and Twitter have forged a considerable partnership under which the social-networking site has become an “official narrator” of Olympic events.
Now that partnership is teaming up in the name of suppression and censorship. NBC has just confirmed that it filed the Twitter complaint against Adams.
And that confirmation confirms more than just the suppression of Adams. It confirms that NBC is taking all this criticism really hard; that it cannot take the criticism; and that it’ll leverage a corporate partnership to silence a critic, oblivious to the fact that it’ll create many more. If NBC hated the tweets over the weekend, well, it may want to suspend its own access now.
An e-mail to Zenkel about this matter — thanks for that, Guy Adams! — has gone unreturned.