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Jul 31 2012

Twits

Twitter Restores Journalist’s Account But Remains at Ethical Crossroads

By Mat Honan, Wired

July 31, 2012

When news broke that Twitter had suspended journalist Guy Adams’ account for violating its privacy rules by tweeting the email address of NBC executive Gary Zenkel, it sent shock waves across the Twitter community.



Here’s an interesting thought experiment. Imagine that instead of going after an NBC executive, Adams’ target was a dictator. Imagine that Adams tweeted, say, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s email address, along with a call to action to protest his policies. Had Twitter worked back-channel with the Syrian government, showing it how to have Adams’ account taken down on a technicality, it would clearly be an indefensible act of censorship. Heads would roll.

But even though the issues at play are smaller when someone criticizes Olympic coverage, Twitter’s actions are no more defensible. Especially because Adams broke none of Twitter’s rules.



Just because the Adams flare-up revolves around sports on TV, Twitter should take this no less seriously than were it a geopolitical issue. The same principle is at stake: free speech. Although Twitter must comply with local laws, none were broken in this case. Twitter should defend that principle, or abandon it completely. There’s no room for middle ground – especially when it involves a corporate partner. Users are right to be distrustful of Twitter after this debacle. Reinstating Guy Adams’ account was a good first step, but Twitter needs to go farther.



It needs to treat the person who gave special favor to NBC no differently than it would treat someone who gives special favors to the Syrian regime. It must stand by its “tweets will flow” stance in every case if it’s to demonstrate that it stands for principles, and not just marketing.

Or, it can be a big media player, like its partner, Comcast, which owns NBC.

Just another example of the casual crony corruption of the current capitalist system.

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