If you’re going to criticize a television network over, say, its Olympic coverage, then here’s a hint: Make sure that you know the rules about the venue in which you’ve chosen to make your points. More to the point, make sure that you and said venue agree on the rules… Otherwise, you might end up like Guy Adams, a journalist for the British newspaper The Independent, who has found himself becoming news after Twitter suspended his account as the result of a tirade against the television coverage of the London Olympics as broadcast by NBC Universal in the US.
To be clear, Adams wasn’t actually suspended for criticizing NBC; if that were the case, then the majority of American Twitterers would be suspended after Friday night’s opening ceremony, judging by the contents of my feed – Although let’s be honest, Matt and Meredith could’ve stopped talking just a little bit, right? And what was with the weird sound at times? You’re all with me on this, right…? – Instead, what actually caused the problem was when Adams took his complaints from the abstract and corporate – “America’s left coast forced to watch Olympic ceremony on SIX HOUR time delay. Disgusting money-grabbing by @NBColympics,” say, or “I have 1000 channels on my TV. Not one will be showing the Olympics opening ceremony live. Because NBC are utter, utter bastards” – to the personal, mentioning NBC’s President of Olympic programming, Gary Zenkel, by name. “Techcrunch call @NBColympics total buffoons http://t.co/1DYypK0T Sums up why Gary Zenkel, moronic exec behind the time delay, shd be fired,” he tweeted at one point, before adding “The man responsible for NBC pretending the Olympics haven’t started yet is Gary Zenkel. Tell him what u think! Email: Gary.email@example.com.”
That last tweet was too much for Twitter.
Officially, Adams’ account has been suspended for posting that email address publicly, with the company citing its guidelines in the decision. In particular, Twitter’s Terms of Service prohibits “posting another person’s private and confidential information,” with the definition of “private and confidential information” including “non-public, personal email addresses.” Here’s where things get complicated, however, because the address Adams shared for Zenkel may have been “non-public,” but it wasn’t private; it’s clearly his work email address. And as such, it’s not exactly private, especially considering that anyone who knew the “[firstname].[lastname]@nbcuni.com” formula could’ve easily worked it out.
To complicate matters even further, Twitter isn’t exactly an unbiased bystander in this whole situation; it’s actually a partner in NBC Universal’s Olympics coverage, with Twitter acting as “official narrator” for events, and NBC coverage touting the service on air. Whether or not that means that Twitter has acted irresponsibly in its suspension as many have claimed is open to question, but it certainly makes the company’s actions a little bit more suspicious…