Twitter, as an online communication medium, is as open as it gets. At least that's the assumption. People can speak their mind and the company has always defended its users’ rights to both speak up and enjoy their privacy. "Doing the right thing" is easy when it's not costing you much.
But as soon as dollar figures start getting mixed into the picture, a backbone is harder to procure. To its credit, Twitter did admit its mistake and apologized for it. But it shouldn't have happened in the first place.
A couple of days ago, Twitter suspended the account of Guy Adams, an LA journalist, for tweeting out the email address of NBC's Olympics boss Gary Zenkel during a series of tweets critical of NBC's coverage.
Tweeting private information is a violation of Twitter's terms, so the site was within its rights to suspend the account. Of course, Twitter is a private company and can suspend any account it deems fit.
There were a couple of problems though. First, there have been many cases of people revealing private or quasi-private info, such as phone numbers, home addresses and so on, where nothing happened. This is because Twitter requires those targeted to request that the info be removed, it does not act on its own.
Second, the email address wasn't exactly private info. NBC uses a common format for email addresses and that actual email address was available online in several locations.
Still, Twitter could have defended its position had it been only this. But it was then revealed, by NBC, that it was Twitter that discovered the particular tweet, told NBC about it and instructed the media company to file a complaint on Twitter.
NBC has partnered with Twitter during the Olympics, so there is a commercial relationship between the two companies.
Twitter has now reinstated Adam's account and explained how it all happened. The team that was working with NBC did indeed spur them to file a report. But the Trust and Safety team, which receives these complaints and decides how to act on them had no idea and treated the report like any other.
"The Trust and Safety team does not actively monitor users’ content. In all cases, whether the user is the head of a major corporation, a celebrity, or a regular user, we require a report to be filed at our abusive users webform," Twitter explained
"That said, we 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," it said.
Twitter is promising that this sort of thing won't happen again, but the entire thing was a wakeup call for many that blindingly believed Twitter was incapable of doing wrong.