Members of the press are slamming NBC and Twitter after the social network suspended the account of a journalist who tweeted an NBC exec’s email address.
The journalist, Guy Adams, who is the Los Angeles bureau chief for The Independent
, was a vocal critics of NBC’s London Olympics coverage. Among his many tweets about the Olympics, Adams wrote on Monday
: “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
“Your account has been suspended for posting an individual's private information such as private email address, physical address, telephone number, or financial documents. It is a violation of the Twitter Rules."
The incident drew the ire of the media and other Twitter members—some even compared NBC to ousted Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak. One Twitter user remarked
: “Twitter could stand up to Mubarak during Arab spring but not NBC during Olympics.”
As many have pointed out, Twitter and NBC have partnered
to bring Olympic coverage to the social network.
NBC Sports offered a slightly different timeline than the one suggested in the media.
In an email to The Daily Telegraph
, the network’s vice president of communications pointed the finger at Twitter. Christopher McCloskey told the Telegraph
that Twitter contacted NBC’s social media department alerting them to the tweet in question. Only after the alert did the network fill out a complaint and submit it to Twitter, according to the Telegraph
NBC and Twitter have remained mostly mum about the incident.
article points out that Adams did not, in fact, break any of Twitter’s rules. Writing for Mashable
According to Taylor, Zenkel’s email address turns up in a Google search—before this incident occurred. (He notes that by drawing attention the tweet, the email address has now vaulted to the first couple of pages of search returns.)
“So Zenkel’s email address was ‘previously posted or displayed elsewhere on the Internet prior to being put on Twitter,’ and Adam’s posting of it ‘is not a violation of this policy,’” Taylor writes. “Game over, checkmate …”
Ultimately, critics of Twitter can highlight inconsistencies in its policies all they want, because the fact is Twitter is not
a public utility, so it can set its own rules—even if that rule is “I’m taking my ball and going home.”
Dave Winer, a writer and software developer, addressed this topic in a blog post on Monday
“All this time the press has been acting as if Twitter were a public utility, when it is nothing like that. It's a service operated for free by a private company. They don't see it in any way as a public utility. They have good PR and have chosen a friendly logo, and they make jokes and they're nice guys. But they're running a business. And your writing is subject to their whims. And your recourse is nothing. Read the terms of service.
“And lest you think Facebook is any better, it isn't.
“It's time for journalists to take a serious look at this and decide if they are really serious about journalism.”
Dan Gillmor, the founding director of the Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship, said
this might be a “defining moment” for Twitter:
"Twitter should apologize and reinstate Adams’ account immediately. If it does so, there’s little harm done—and the company will have learned a lesson.
"If not, this is a defining moment for Twitter. It will have demonstrated that it can be bullied by its business partners into acts that damage its credibility and ultimately the reason so many of us use it as a platform. And if that’s the case, there will be much less incentive to use it."
Either way, it could be a wake-up call for reporters. Twitter pulling the plug on a journalist who’s highly critical of a TV network’s sports coverage is one thing. Imagine, as many Twitter users have in the last 24 hours, what would happen if the social network sided with a political leader, nation, or corrupt organization on something far more serious.