A Twitter suspension that led to 24 hours of online anger at the San Francisco
microblogging service and Olympics broadcaster NBC seemed to come to a
conclusion Tuesday, as a journalist received control of his account back and
Twitter admitted its employee had set in motion the entire chain of events.
Guy Adams, a correspondent for the British newspaper The Independent who is based in Los Angeles, was suspended from Twitter on Sunday after sending a series of tweets critical of NBC's decision to tape-delay broadcasts of London Olympics events such as the opening ceremonies in the United States.
The final Sunday tweet included the public corporate email address of NBC President Gary Zenkel, which follows the standard convention of all NBC corporate email addresses. Later, Adams discovered his account had been suspended, discovering through an email from Twitter that the move was for disclosing another person's private information, which is not allowed in the company's Terms of Service.
Adams returned to Twitter on Tuesday with a series of tweets, saying that the company had informed him that, "We have just received an update from the complainant retracting their original request, therefore your account has been unsuspended."
"Our interest was in protecting our executive, not suspending the user from Twitter," an NBC spokesman said Tuesday. "We didn't initially understand the repercussions of our complaint, but now that we do, we have rescinded it."
However, Twitter later admitted in a contrite blog post that it had originally prompted the suspension by flagging the tweet and informing NBC -- a partner in Twitter's Olympics coverage initiative -- despite longtime promises that the company does not actively monitor users' content.
"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. ... 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," Alex McGillivray, Twitter's general counsel, wrote in the blog post. McGillivray also personally apologized to Adams on Twitter.
The episode has cast a shadow on Twitter and NBC, which have partnered on some social media-based projects surrounding the Olympics, including an Olympics event page that offers a curated feed of the most popular Twitter posts from the games.
Despite record ratings for the first few days of the 2012 Olympics, NBC has faced withering criticism for its coverage, with U.S. viewers --like Adams -- angry about events being tape-delayed and shown in primetime. Twitter has been a common medium for those critics to post their views, with the hashtag #NBCfail gaining popularity, and Adams' experience became a flashpoint that brought out anger at the network and the social-media startup.
In a post Tuesday for The Independent, before Twitter's mea culpa, Adams saved his harshest words for the San Francisco tech company.
"It would seem that Twitter may have betrayed almost all of its supposed values in order to foster a commercial relationship. What could be more at odds with Twitter, and everything it stands for, than for the company to have engaged in censorship in the hopeful pursuit of a quick buck?" he asked.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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