The avoidable outrage storm swirling around Twitter and NBC following the punishment of reporter Guy Adams, who tweeted the corporate e-mail address of an NBC executive amid a rant about their Olympics coverage, rages on. Neither corporation, which are in a strategic partnership for the Games, are doing themselves any favors, as Twitter has thus far refused to clarify its rules while NBC clumsily attempted to pass the buck.
Adams was told his account was suspended for publishing a "non-public, personal email addresses," but NBC Olympics president Gary Zenkel's address was neither. Today, an NBC employee told the Telegraph, "Our social media dept was actually alerted to it by Twitter and then we filled out the form and submitted it." The idea that Twitter is on alert to protect a corporation from criticism has only served to anger its normally supportive user base more.
Meanwhile, Adams's account is still suspended. (Update: And he's back; see below.)
Writing for the Independent today, the journalist said he was contacted by Twitter's "trust and safety" department and told, "If you would like to request your account to be restored, please respond to this email and confirm that you've read and understood our rules." Adams responded, in part:
I would love my Twitter account to be un-suspended.
However you have asked me to "confirm that I have read and understood" your rules.
I've read, and I have re-read your rules. Clearly I don't understand them, though, because I have no idea how I broke them.
You claim that I posted a "private email address."
I did no such thing. I posted a corporate email address, not a private one.
It was, like the work address of every other NBC Universal account holder, written in a very un-private format: email@example.com.
Moreover, it was already easily identifiable to anyone in possession of 30 seconds of free time and access to Google. For example, it had been published online over a year ago, at the link below
Mr Zenkel's email address HAD been posted on the internet prior to being put on Twitter, Therefore can you explain how my Tweet violated your policy? Or are you making this up as you go along?
About their customized flagging of Adams's arguably rule-breaking tweet, Twitter said they do not "actively monitor content." As has been pointed out by individual users and even the New York Times, that's for sure: "I wonder why Twitter never deleted the account that posted my home address and threatened to dismember me," one user wrote. None other than Justin Bieber once posted the phone number of a nemesis, but was not suspended.
As Poynter notes, ratings for NBC's Olympics coverage have been huge; it will never be affected by a little online flap. Twitter, too, seems to be absorbing bad press for no reason by clinging to a generous interpretation of a rule that, in this case, is protecting no one.
Update: "Oh. My Twitter account appears to have been un-suspended," Adams wrote this afternoon. "Did I miss much while I was away?" But this thing isn't necessarily over — Twitter still has some explaining to do.
Update 2: According to Adams, NBC backed off: He says he received an e-mail from Twitter alerting him, "we have just received an update from the complainant retracting their original request ... Therefore your account has been unsuspended."
His tweet containing Zenkel's e-mail address remains.
Update 3: NBC said in a statement, "Our interest was in protecting our executive, not suspending the user from Twitter. We didn't initially understand the repercussions of our complaint, but now that we do, we have rescinded it."
Update 4: Now it's Twitter's turn to apologize. In a blog post, the company's general counsel Alex Macgillivray writes:
We’ve seen a lot of commentary about whether we should have considered a corporate email address to be private information. There are many individuals who may use their work email address for a variety of personal reasons — and they may not. Our Trust and Safety team does not have insight into the use of every user’s email address, and we need a policy that we can implement across all of our users in every instance
That said, we want to apologize for the part of this story that we did mess up. 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.
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.
Chloe Sladden, who runs Twitter's media partnerships, added, "I want to personally apologize for this oversight."