SBD/July 31, 2012/Olympics

British Reporter Suspended From Twitter After Making Public Gary Zenkel's E-mail Address

Adams' tweet urged followers to complain to NBC about the net's tape-delayed coverage
Twitter has suspended the account of the London Independent's Guy Adams following a tweet that urged his followers to complain about NBC's tape-delayed coverage and included the e-mail address of NBC Olympics President Gary Zenkel. NBC Sports issued a statement that read, "We filed a complaint with Twitter because a user tweeted the personal information of one of our executives. According to Twitter, this is a violation of their privacy policy. Twitter alone levies discipline" (THE DAILY). The GUARDIAN’s Josh Halliday notes NBC claimed that Twitter “had alerted it to Adams’ tweets, not the other way round.” NBC Sports & Olympic VP/Communications Christopher McCloskey in an e-mail said, “Our social media dept was actually alerted to it by Twitter and then we filled out the form and submitted it” (GUARDIAN, 7/31). The GUARDIAN’s Ed Pilkington wrote London Independent Deputy Editor Archie Bland “confirmed the suspension, calling it ‘heavy-handed.’” NBC acted after Adams encouraged people to complain to Zenkel "about the TV network's delayed broadcast of the opening ceremony of the Games.” Twitter's terms and conditions state that users "must not post private email addresses, unless they are already available on the internet.” Adams said that the e-mail “was not a private one but a corporate account, and that Zenkel's address is identical in form to thousands of other NBC employees.” Pilkington noted suspicions that Twitter “had over-reached itself and strayed into censorship were heightened by the fact that the firm has entered into a deal with NBCUniversal in which Twitter becomes the official narrator of live events at the Olympics” (GUARDIAN.co.uk, 7/30).

DECIPHERING THE RULES: USA TODAY’s Michael Hiestand writes Adams has become “something of a martyr in the Twitterverse since his account was suspended after his tweets.” Adams said, “I didn’t publish a private e-mail address. Just a corporate one, which is widely available to anyone with access to Google.” Hiestand notes NBC has a “non-financial partnership with Twitter for Games coverage” (USA TODAY, 7/31). Twitter spokesperson Rachael Horwitz said that the company “never comments on individual users for privacy reasons.” But she said that Twitter “considers work emails private unless they’re publicly shared." Adams: “If this Gary Zenkel doesn’t want to hear from the many tens of thousands of customers he upset with his network’s coverage, I think he’s in the wrong job” (AP, 7/31). BLOOMBERG NEWS’ Sherman & Womack noted Twitter “says on its website that posting ‘non-public, personal e-mail addresses’ are examples of private and confidential information." It does not "specify if work e-mails are public or non-public” (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 7/30). MASHABLE.com’s Chris Taylor wrote Adams “probably went a little further than most,” but he “didn’t actually violate Twitter’s terms of service.” Taylor: “Don’t be surprised to see Adams’ account reinstated -- the company has a history of acting precipitously when it comes to account deletions, then reversing themselves” (MASHABLE.com, 7/30). In London, Sam Masters writes NBC “was at the centre of controversy last night” as news of the suspension “sparked tens of thousands of angry messages on Twitter” (London INDEPENDENT, 7/31).

PARTNERS IN CRIME
: The GUARDIAN’s Dan Gillmor writes what makes this “a serious issue is that Twitter has partnered with NBC during the Olympics,” and it was “NBC's complaint about Adams that led to the suspension.” Gillmor: “That alone raises reasonable suspicions about Twitter's motives. ... 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” (GUARDIAN, 7/31). YAHOO SPORTS’ Dan Wetzel wrote the decision to suspend Adams' account was “a colossal mistake.” Wetzel: “So, first, they team up and then coincidentally one of the network's most relentless critics gets booted from the website? … This is a public-relations gaffe, and it's hard to imagine how Twitter didn't see it coming” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 7/30). In L.A., Salvador Rodriguez wrote Twitter and NBC “are partners, and friends tend to watch each others' backs." Rodriguez: "If you have been criticizing NBC and plan to continue doing so, it may be best to make sure you aren't violating Twitter's policies -- you don't want to find your account down the next time you try to log on” (LATIMES.com, 7/30).
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