Twitter restores @GuyAdams after NBC Olympics tirade [Update: Twitter apologizes]

Guy Adams Twitter account restored

Everybody, relax: Guy Adams is back on Twitter.

In a tweet just moments ago, the British journalist, whose account was suspended by Twitter for allegedly violating the microblogging service’s privacy policy, confirmed that his account had been reactivated. According to Twitter, NBC retracted its complaint against Adams.

“Oh. My Twitter account appears to have been un-suspended. Did I miss much while I was away?” quipped Adams, who serves as Los Angeles bureau chief of for The Independent.

In less than five minutes after Adams posed that tweet, it had been retweeted nearly 400 times, and favorited almost 50 times — a final testament to the misguided wisdom of censoring a journalist on shaky corporate policy grounds.

Less than 15 minutes after his first tweet, Adams said that “Twitter emails to tell me: ‘we have just received an update from the complainant retracting their original request…Therefore your account has been ususpended.’ No further explanation given, or apology offered.”

Adams’s Twitter account was first taken offline on Monday after Adams posted the email address of Gary Zenkel, NBC’s executive in charge of the network’s exclusive coverage of the London Olympic Summer Games here in the United States. The ill-fated tweet followed a string of tweets on July 27 lambasting NBC for its decision to time delay the airing of the Olympics for U.S. viewers.

Twitter forbids the publication of “another person’s private and confidential information.” However, the company’s privacy policy also says that “If information was previously posted or displayed elsewhere on the Internet prior to being put on Twitter, it is not a violation of this policy.” Not only did Adams publish Zenkel’s work email address, which certainly rides the line of being “private,” but the address could in fact be found elsewhere on the Web prior to Adams’s tweet.

Not surprisingly, the media (yours truly included) jumped on this apparent bending of the rules, and lambasted Twitter for imposing censorship on its users in an apparent attempt to protect its corporate partner, NBC, for which Twitter serves as the “official narrator” of the Olympics.

To make matters worse, the Telegraph reports that it was Twitter — not NBC — who brought Adams’s Zenkel tweet to the network’s attention. It was not until after this that NBC filed the complaint that resulted in Adams’s account being suspended.

It will be interesting to see if Twitter learned any lessons from this whole debacle.

What do you think? Should Twitter have apologized to Adams? Did Twitter make a mistake by suspending his account in the first place? Or was it a mistake to backtrack so quickly? Let us know what you think in the comments.

Update: Twitter’s general counsel Alex McGillivray has issued an explanation of Twitter’s account suspension policy, and apologized for its mishandling of the Adams situation. McGillivray’s response was posted to the company blog, and forwarded to journalists who inquired about the situation. We’ve posted the important parts below:

When our Trust and Safety team receives a report from a user explaining that his/her private personally-identifiable information has been posted on Twitter, we investigate the issue and temporarily suspend the account if it is found to be violating ourGuidelines & Best Practices. We make it possible for people to report posting of their private information because it may be used to harass or intimidate, and in certain circumstances may even be illegal. We have systems in place to address such behavior.  

Before the violating account is unsuspended, we ask the account holder to do two things:

  1. we ask that they confirm that they understand our private information policy, and
  2. we ask them to state that going forward they will follow the Twitter Terms of Service

Once they have confirmed this for us in their email response, their account is unsuspended. Additionally, if we receive a notice from the complainant rescinding their original complaint, the account is unsuspended.

The Trust and Safety team does not actively monitor users’ content. In all cases, whether the user is the head of a major corporation, a celebrity, or a regular user, we require a report to be filed at our abusive users webform. Not only do we need a report, but we need a report from the person whose private information has been posted, or someone who is able to legally act on their behalf. We do not proactively report or remove private information on behalf of other users, no matter who they are.  

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