The Olympics always seem to come with its share of controversy – and I’m not talking about the competition.
Over the weekend Twitter suspended the account of Guy Adams, a Los Angeles corespondent for The Independent (a UK publication), after he publicly tweeted the email address of Gary Zenkel, president of the NBC Sports Network:
The tweet was in reference as to the very late broadcast of the opening ceremonies, which was delayed as much as 6 hours on the west coast. As you can expect, this lead to a flurry of nasty emails, so NBC complained to Twitter and the result was Adam’s Twitter handle being suspended.
Twitter’s API has specific language around sharing private information:
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.
This means that if Zenkel’s email address is somewhere online, not hidden by a paywall, Adams can post it all he wants. And as it turns out, another angry viewer in June 2011 posted his email address with a similar goal on mind.
In this classic case of who’s right, who’s wrong, public opinion is on Adam’s side, mostly because of how much NBC has botched their Olympics coverage so far. But if you take a step back and look at this, it can be a defining moment for Twitter and freedom of speech. One of the reasons Twitter is so powerful is that it can motivate large groups of people to take action. President Obama even tried to do this last year when he posted the Twitter handles of of congressman, encouraging people to contact them and demand compromise around raising the debt ceiling.
Yes, sharing private information like some email addresses, cell phone numbers and home addresses can be very, very dangerous. But it can also be dangerous not to share that information in certain situations, particularly around the abuse of power.
Is Twitter going to backtrack and reinstate Adams’ account? Almost certainly, as he technically didn’t violate their API. But it opens up a much larger debate. What do you think?