Did Twitter Kick This Guy Off Because He Tweeted an Aly Raisman GIF?

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Just before the 2016 Rio Olympics kicked off, the International Olympic Committee laid down a new rule regarding news organizations sharing its digital content: Thou shalt not GIF the Olympic Games on pain of death. (Officially, the mandate said “the use of Olympics material transformed into graphic animated formats such as animated GIFs (i.e. GIFV), GFY, WebM, or short-video formats such as Vines and others, is expressly prohibited,” but where’s the dramatic flair in that?) Now, a man says he was kicked off Twitter after sharing a GIF of Aly Raisman’s floor routine.

Until today, Jim Weber was a heavy Twitter user with nearly 100,000 followers and 69,000 tweets. (Nice.) “Sure, I didn’t have the rights to any footage at the Olympics — just like countless blogs and users don’t have rights to the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, and NCAA footage that they create GIFs out of and profit from every day,” Weber, who works in the sports-media industry, explained in a lengthy blog post on LinkedIn. “But I figured the worst thing that would happen is the GIF would be deleted from my account, as Twitter often does in these situations.”

Except that isn’t what happened. Over the weekend, Weber received a DMCA takedown notice from Twitter via email, which included a letter from the IOC director of legal affairs. (This feels like a lot of work to get one guy to take down one GIF, but okay, IOC.) According to the note, Weber had ten minutes to reply to the IOC and comply with their request to “immediately and permanently remove the material.” But three minutes later, he received a second email informing him that his account had been suspended. (Twitter did not immediately respond to Select All’s request for comment.)

Today, four days later, Weber says he received another email from Twitter, this one informing him that he had been permanently banned from using the micro-blogging platform under the handle @JimMWeber. (Reminder: This is the same punishment Milo Yiannopoulos received after leading hateful trolls against Leslie Jones.) Weber says he regrets sharing the GIF, but also that he believes Twitter is using him as an example.

From Weber via Linkedin:

It’s disappointing that Twitter will throw users under the bus to do it by permanently banning the very users that built Twitter into the vibrant community it is today. It’s even more frustrating that I didn’t have a single human interaction but was delivered form letters determining my fate — likely sent from somewhere halfway around the world. 

When the IOC announced the GIF ban before the games, my Select All colleague Brian Feldman wrote that the situation could go one of two ways: “At best, the IOC won’t really care. At worst, the committee and platforms will be playing the world’s most nihilistic game of Whac-A-Mole.” In this case, Weber has become the mole. Now it’s only a question of whether there will be more and whether the whacking is justified.