The first few days of the Olympics have been rife with fail-bait. #NBCFail, to be specific. Guy Adams, a Los Angeles-based reporter for The Independent newspaper in London, wrote an article reaming NBC for its gross incompetence:

At the centre of controversy was NBC’s attempt to leverage maximum revenue from the Games, for which they paid almost a billion dollars, by foregoing live coverage of high-profile events. Instead, it intends to footage on time-delay during evening prime time, when brands will pay a premium to advertise.

Even when they do find live sport, NBC viewers must suffer some of the most invasive advertising in the history of television: roughly 20 minutes during each hour is taken up by commercial breaks.

Critics have also rounded on the quality of NBC’s commentary, which has been riddled with basic factual errors. They ranged from a cycling host’s allegation that the Surrey countryside is full of “chateaus” to a map on NBC’s website which describes Australia as “located in central Europe, bordered to the north by Germany and the Czech Republic, [and] to the west by Switzerland”.

Adams didn’t stop there, however. He also took to Twitter to twist the knife even deeper into the network’s side:

Oh, snap.

And there’s plenty more where that came from. Apparently, NBC execs were none too pleased with the bad publicity, despite the fact that they themselves have invited the endless ridicule. But is it possible that the network pulled some strings with someone at Twitter and got Adams’ account suspended? Plenty of Twitterers, including Adams’ own colleagues, support that claim:

NBC’s apparent temper tantrum left a bad taste in many people’s mouths:

Adams’ defenders have started a hashtag to call attention to his suspension: #SAVEGUYADAMS.

https://twitter.com/GerardDiTrolio/status/229989985057640448

Adams plans to address the issue in the next issue of The Independent.

The tweet in question:

If that’s the excuse NBC and Twitter are going with, it’s not a very good one.

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Updates:

In his follow-up post in The Independent, Adams confirms that his suspension was due to his tweeting Gary Zenkel’s email address. He adds:

Though I’m still banned from Twitter, so unable to personally verify this, colleagues inform me that my suspension has suddenly become a matter of public debate.

Since I’m still trying to get to bottom of the hows and whys of my suspension, which conceivably raises various ethical issues relevant to journalism in the online era, it seems premature to comment further. Except, perhaps to say that I do not wish Mr Zenkel any harm, and to share a transcript of my most recent email to Rachel Bremer, Twitter’s head of European PR.

“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.”

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Mashable says Twitter got it wrong: “Not only was Twitter’s reaction completely disproportionate, there’s one major problem with it: [Guy Adams] didn’t actually violate Twitter’s terms of service.”

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CNN host Piers Morgan urges Twitter to reinstate Adams’ account:

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Reuters has now published an article that includes Gary Zenkel’s “private” corporate email address. The article states: “NBC confirmed that it had filed a complaint with Twitter.”

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Tech journalist Dan Gillmor asks if the suspension of Guy Adams is “a defining moment for Twitter”:

What makes this a serious issue is that Twitter has partnered with NBC during the Olympics. And it was NBC’s complaint about Adams that led to the suspension.

Twitter has been exemplary in its handling of many issues over the past several years, including its (for a social network) brave stance in protecting user privacy. So I’m giving the service the benefit of the doubt for the moment, and hoping that this is just a foolish — if well-meaning — mistake by a single quick-triggered Twitter employee. If so, Twitter should apologize and reinstate Adams’ account immediately. If it does so, there’s little harm done — and the company will have learned a lesson.

If not, this is a defining moment for Twitter. It will have demonstrated that it can be bullied by its business partners into acts that damage its credibility and ultimately the reason so many of us use it as a platform. And if that’s the case, there will be much less incentive to use it.

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Related Twitchy story: Twitter bans Guy Adams, but look which social media menaces aren’t banned

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More negative reaction on Twitter:

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Update: Reuters social media editor Matthew Keys interviews Guy Adams:

 

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