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This article was published on July 30, 2012

Why did Twitter suspend this vocal critic of NBC’s delayed Olympics coverage?

Why did Twitter suspend this vocal critic of NBC’s delayed Olympics coverage?

The Twitter account of the Independent’s correspondent in Los Angeles Guy Adams has been suspended today. Over the last couple of days, Adams had illustrated himself by attacking NBC’s coverage of the Olympics, and the lack of a live broadcast of the opening ceremony.

While his criticism was harsh and repeated, he was far from the only one who criticized the US network and its choices on Twitter; the controversy even gave birth to the hashtag #nbcfail, summarized in this Storify. So why did @guyadams get suspended and what does it have to do with his latest tweets?

We have reached out to Twitter for additional information but haven’t heard back. In the meantime, let’s explore some of the possible reasons behind its controversial decision.

1. The official version: Twitter Rules on privacy

While @guyadams‘ account is now inactive, we have managed to access its recent tweets, and one of the latest ones immediately caught our attention. As you can see, it includes the email address of one of NBC’s staffers:

This left us wondering whether Twitter interpreted it as a violation of its Rules, as they explicitly forbid users to share other people’s private and confidential information. Quoting:

“Privacy: You may not publish or post other people’s private and confidential information, such as credit card numbers, street address or Social Security/National Identity numbers, without their express authorization and permission.”

It seems our intuition was right; according to Deadspin, when Adams himself approached the company to understand why his account had been suspended, he was told that he was punished for “posting an individual’s private information such as private email address, physical address, telephone number, or financial documents.”

Yet, it remains to be seen whether or not a corporate email address constitutes private information – which takes us to the next question: what other reasons may have led Twitter to suspend this account?

2. A conflict of interest?

NBC and Twitter aren’t strangers, especially when it comes to the Olympics. As you may remember, both companies recently closed an innovative partnership to cover this major sports event. In this context, it is hard not to see Guy Adams’ suspension in a different light.

Of course, there is no proof that Twitter was led by its own interest here, and it didn’t suspend the accounts of many other users who also mocked NBC’s tape-delayed broadcast.

Still, many will regard Twitter’s decision with suspicion – and this is not a good thing for a platform that is increasingly positioning itself in the media segment.

Update: Guy Adams has posted an article about his case on The Independent’s website, in which he argues that a corporate address isn’t private. According to Adams, “[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.”

As a matter of fact, the suspension seems to be a direct result of NBC’s actions; according to Reuters’ deputy social media editor Matthew Keys, NBC confirmed in a statement that it “filed a complaint with Twitter because a user tweeted the personal information of one of [its] executives.”

Update 2: We have now learned that Twitter alerted NBC to Adams’ tweet (see our new post).

What do you think of Twitter’s decision and motivations? Share your view in the comments!

Image credit: Eldh