China gets its own Olympic tweet scandal as ex-Google head attacks US swim coach

China gets its own Olympic tweet scandal as ex-Google head attacks US swim coach

The Olympic brouhaha surrounding Chinese swimming sensation Ye Shiwen just ratcheted up several notches. Chinese Web celebrity and former Google China head Kaifu Lee temporarily posted on his much-followed microblog account the personal information of John Leonard, the Team USA swimming coach who had questioned the legitimacy of Ye’s record-breaking performance.

Tech in Asia is tracking the confusing trail of messages that emerged Thursday morning. Lee has since deleted the original post, which went out to his 15 million followers on the Sina Weibo service, but not before it was retweeted over 14,000 times and received more than 4,800 comments.

In his defense, Lee said the information had been in the public record and linked to a different document believed to contain Leonard’s information. Lee also posted information allegedly proving that Leonard has a “criminal record,” though some of the violations appeared to be speeding tickets.

Update: Lee provided a statement to Pando Daily apologizing for his actions:

“This morning, I read John Leonard’s unfair accusations about Ye Shiwen and felt outraged. So I found his public contact information, and sent him an email message asking him to apologize. Then, I wrote a Weibo post, asking other netizens to send fact-based and civilized emails to him as well. I also attached his other contact information in this post.

I apologize for the inappropriateness of my actions, and any inconveniences this may have caused John. At the same time, I sincerely hope that John would also consider an apology to Ye Shiwen.”

Leonard has come under criticism from Chinese fans for calling a world-record-breaking swim by Ye “unbelievable” and “disturbing” and implying that the swimmer may have used performance-enhancing substances.

Independent analyst Bill Bishop remarked on Twitter that Lee’s decision to release Leonard’s personal information was “appalling,” while also noting that Leonard was “way out of line” with his comments.

Meanwhile, Twitter user Fergus Ryan noted that comments on Weibo in response to Lee’s post included one user saying Leonard deserved to die, while others reportedly suggested bombarding Leonard’s email or hacking his computer.

While at Google, Lee helped the company enter the Chinese market. He is now the head of venture capital fund Innovation Works.

The incident carries echoes of one from earlier this week. Journalist Guy Adams had his Twitter account suspended this week after he tweeted the work email address of an NBC executive. Twitter later rescinded the ban, but critics have expressed concern at the fact that a Twitter employee proactively notified NBC about the alleged violation.

Header image via Flickr / Sum_of_Marc

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