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The microblogging service credited with helping free speech flourish goofed this past weekend. After suspending the Twitter account of journalist Guy Adams for a tweet that supposedly violated Twitter’s privacy rules, the service was besieged with media requests and outraged users over the dubious nature of the suspension.
Adams, a Los Angeles correspondent for UK-based publication The Independent, lost his account over a July 27 tweet that included the NBCUniversal corporate email of Gary Zenkel, president of NBC Olympics. On July 29, NBC Sports filed a support ticket with Twitter to suspend the account, which it did.
The Comcast Corporation subsidiary and Twitter entered a non-financial partnership for the duration of the London 2012 Olympics, which led to skepticism about the service’s quick response to its business partner.
There were also questions about the accuracy of Twitter’s privacy rules to ban the posting of “private and confidential information” with regards to Zenkel’s corporate email address, which follows the same format as all NBCUniversal employees: FirstName.LastName@nbcuni.com.
The situation became murkier on July 31, when UK-based publication the Telegraph broke news that the Twitter Olympics team assisted NBC in making the report, according to correspondence with Christopher McCloskey, vice-president of communications for NBC Sports.
Despite silence from the social networking website all weekend, Twitter unsuspended the Independent correspondent’s account on July 31 and issued an apology on its blog:
“The team working closely with NBC around our Olympics partnership did proactively identify a Tweet that was in violation of the Twitter Rules and encouraged them to file a support ticket with our Trust and Safety team to report the violation, as has now been reported publicly. Our Trust and Safety team did not know that part of the story and acted on the report as they would any other.”
Posted by Twitter’s general counsel, Alex Macgillivray, the statement went out of its way to explain the service’s objectivity as a whole, separate from the actions of individual employees, “As I stated earlier, we do not proactively report or remove content on behalf of other users no matter who they are. This behavior is not acceptable and undermines the trust our users have in us. We should not and cannot be in the business of proactively monitoring and flagging content, no matter who the user is— whether a business partner, celebrity or friend.”
In response to the quandary surrounding whether Zenkel’s corporate email address fell into the realm of personal email addresses as defined by Twitter Rules, Twitter responded: “There are many individuals who may use their work email address for a variety of personal reasons— and some may not.” Therefore, the site’s response stemmed from the policy, which, as the post says, “That we can implement across all of our users in every instance.”
However, it had been determined that Zenkel’s corporate email had previously been revealed by a blog protesting NBC’s coverage of this year’s U.S. Open.
A report from Wired states that the Guy Adams incident has its own place in debates about Twitter’s future, and whether it has a place as a technology company or as a media entity.
A tweet from the reinstated account of Guy Adams suggested that his account was unsuspended because NBC rescinded its complaint.