How Twitter Conspired With NBC To Get A Critical Journalist Banned

Guy Adams has had a hell of a week. He's covering the Olympics at the moment and had a few choice things to say about NBC's coverage of the games. Those choice comments included email address of the president of NBC Sports, Gary Zenkel. NBC didn't like that too much, and as a result, Adams was kicked off Twitter for a spell. It has been revealed today, however, that Twitter actively conspired to have Adams removed from the social network thanks to his criticism of NBC. How did it all go down?

Twitter's general counsel Alex Macgillivray took to the company's blog today to address the tweets at the centre of the Adams-scandal — something he says doesn't happen very often.

Macgillivray tells us that Twitter's Trust and Safety team don't actually monitor any content on the social network, they merely respond to user-generated reports as they are submitted.

When someone tweets private information — like an executive's email address in this case — Macgillivray says that Twitter suspends the account before asking the reported user to acknowledge the private information policy and pledge that they won't violate it again. Following this email conversation, a user is unsuspended.

In the Guy Adams case, NBC complained to Twitter's Trust and Safety team which led to the temporary ban, but who told NBC to do that? How did NBC know that by complaining, it would silence a journalist who has been vocally critical of the network's coverage of the Games? NBC knew simply because Twitter told the network exactly how to complain and encouraged it to do so as soon as the critical tweets emerged.

Macgillivray writes of the incident (emphasis is my own):

We want to apologise 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 [Private Information] 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.

Whether Twitter has apologised for this incident or not, it still means that the integrity of the social network — which has been hailed as one of the best sources for pure, unfiltered breaking news in the world — has been called into question and somewhat sullied as a result.

If Twitter's commercial team saw something they thought hurt one of their partners in future, would they go to that partner and encourage them to report it? Have Twitter's commercial interests come before the interests of free and open information sharing before? We just don't know, and it's that seed of doubt that's going to tarnish Twitter long after the athletes have gone home and the Olympic cauldron has been extinguished.

Macgillivary promised that this wouldn't happen again:

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. As of earlier today, the account has been unsuspended, and we will actively work to ensure this does not happen again.

...and for the moment, his word is all we have to go on.

Guy Adams is now back on Twitter and is most likely enjoying the bump in followers he's received from it.


Comments

    He shouldn't have included the exec's email address and got what he deserved.

      agree, I don;t get the controversy.

        Just that they were told by twitter what/how to do it. SO OBVIOUSLY TWITTER IS EVIL!

        Or not - sounds more like the NBC guys were working with a twitter employee who noticed the post and said 'you can report that, you know'.

        Deal big? no...

      Sounds like he got temp banned because he posted private information, not because he was critical of NBC. Can't see the issue.

        Thing is it wasn't private information, its was he "work" email address which he routinely sends out via emails, mailouts, business cards. Twitter is being a**hats. Full STOP

        If this twit had published the NBC executives personal email address Twitter would have a leg to stand on, instead they just look like government/corporate stooges.

    Are channel 9 and twitter gonna conspire to take town 9 Olympic Exec then? http://www.twitter.com/9OlympicExec

      That's so good. Best Twitter feed out there at the moment.

    I heard that he posted the guys work email not his personal email, would you say that's okay?

    The rules should apply regardless of a persons station, i.e any email address provided without explicit approval of the email owner, is in breach, Exec's are just people, and no they are no more important then anyone else, they die just the same, and are born the same way as other people.

    The employee who proactively advised NBC, should be warned in writing, and any further breaches of public policy for twitter should end in said employee being performance managed, as the one thing that will ruin Twitter, is if they are badged in the media as being a biased information source like NBC is.

    Money at any cost, popularity at any cost, is one surefire way to fail in the end, insert one of a 1000 or more corporations here.

    The email address was publicly available online and had been for four years. You can find it via Google.

    How is that 'private'?

    If Adams had simply published a link to the blog post it was in, would it have caused the same concern?

      Agreed Craig.

      100% correct Craig!

    I'm sensing that the outrage is that one corporate giant talked to another corporate giant, as if they don't already golf together. The real suprise would be if Twitter also tipped off Kim Jong un that someone tweeted his email address.

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