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Twitter suspends journalist's account for Olympics gaffe

Twitter has suspended and since reinstated the account of a journalist after tweeting an NBC executive's email address in response to the Olympics coverage.

Update Twitter has suspended and since reinstated the account of a journalist after tweeting an NBC executive's email address in response to the Olympics coverage.
(Credit: Twitter)

Guy Adams, the Los Angeles bureau chief for newspaper The Independent, tweeted the following criticism in regards to the Olympics opening ceremony and the American broadcaster: "I have 1000 channels on my TV. Not one will be showing the Olympics opening ceremony live. Because NBC are utter, utter bastards."

Adams then followed on to tweet the email address of Gary Zenkel, the NBC Olympics President. Twitter, an official partner of NBC during the Olympics, promptly suspended Adams' account for allegedly violating the site's terms of service. While the terms clearly state that tweeting private or confidential details are a violation, according to Adams, the email address he posted was not private and was available publicly online.

Twitter's terms also go on to say the following:

Keep in mind that, although you may consider certain information to be private, not all postings of such information may be a violation of this policy. 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.

Adams was not alone in his criticisms of the NBC broadcast, with a cursory glance at the #nbcfail showing up plenty of other dissenting voices. Rather ironically, Zenkel's email address is also showing up as a related search, with some users questioning if Twitter would have to suspend itself if the email address started trending.

Speaking with The Wall Street Journal, NBC Sports said that it filed the complaint with Twitter because the tweet contained "the personal information of one of our executives. According to Twitter, this is a violation of their privacy policy. Twitter alone levies discipline."

In his article in The Independent, Adams has published a full account of his side of the story:

I'm, of course, happy to abide by Twitter's rules, now and forever," it reads. "But I don't see how I broke them in this case: I didn't publish a private email address. Just a corporate one, which is widely available to anyone with access to Google, and is identical [in form] to one that all of the tens of thousands of NBC Universal employees share. It's no more "private" than the address I'm emailing you from right now. Either way, [it's] quite worrying that NBC, whose parent company are an Olympic sponsor, are apparently trying (and, in this case, succeeding) in shutting down the Twitter accounts of journalists who are critical of their Olympic coverage.

Twitter has since reinstated Adams' account. In a blog post, the service said:

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.

Updated at 9.10am, 1 August: added Twitter apology and comment on reinstating the account.