Welcome to the Twittolympics

In this week's 400-meter faceplant, Twitter grabs gold, NBC takes silver, and the bronze medal goes to journalist Guy Adams

Twitter found itself at the center of brief but intense media debacle this week when it banned a reporter from its service after he tweeted out comments critical of one of its business partners. You probably know the story, but here are the essentials in case you missed them.

U.K. journalist Guy Adams issues series of tweets ranting about NBC's failure to broadcast Olympic events live in the United States, resulting in everyone knowing who won six hours before they get to see it happen. Included in said rants is the corporate email address of Gary Zenker, the NBC executive presumably in charge of this decision. Somehow, someone at Twitter sees the tweet and suggests NBC file a complaint about it. (Twitter and NBC are business partners for the 2012 games.) Complaint is filed, journalist's account is immediately suspended, and -- boom -- instant controversy.

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Why? Because there's nothing the media -- myself included -- likes better than to talk about itself, especially when it feels a good case of self-righteousness coming on. But this one was especially juicy because it was broadcast media (NBC) and social media (Twitter) ganging up on a member of print and Web media (The Independent).

Twitter claimed Adams violated its rules by tweeting out a private email address. Adams claimed the email address was hardly private, being both a rote corporate address, easily guessable by anyone with half a brain, and because it had already appeared elsewhere on the Web. (Twitter's rules quite explicitly state if an email address has been published elsewhere, it's no longer considered private.)

Insanely, it took Twitter some four days to do the obvious thing and reinstate Adams, which would have put the matter to rest had the company done it three days earlier. Twitter chief legal beagle Alex Macgillivray posted an apology, of sorts -- not for banishing Adams, but for the Twitter employee who took it upon him- or herself to notify NBC and urge them to complain. He wrote:

[W]e 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... This behavior is not acceptable and undermines the trust our users have in us. We should not and cannot be in the business of proactively monitoring and flagging content, no matter who the user is -- whether a business partner, celebrity or friend.

Though Macgillivray's post is hardly a beacon of clarity about what Twitter was thinking, it appears the reason Twitter reinstated Adams was because NBC rescinded its complaint, not because the company was wrong to ban Adams in the first place. Which raises the question: How exactly does one take back a complaint like that? Is this service only available to special business partners of Twitter?

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