Twitter has reinstated the account of the journalist Guy Adams, who criticised the US TV network NBC's Olympics coverage and posted the public email address of one of its executives. The social network also offered a flimsy apology of sorts, but not to Adams himself.
Adams' account was reactivated last night. Adams then tweeted, "Twitter emails to tell me: 'we have just received an update from the complainant retracting their original request... Therefore your account has been unsuspended.' No further explanation given, or apology offered."
The offending tweet has been deleted.
In a blog post, the company put forth an aggressive defence of its private information policy, which it claims Adams breached.
"We've seen a lot of commentary about whether we should have considered a corporate email address to be private information," writes the company's general counsel, Alex Macgillivray. "There are many individuals who may use their work email address for a variety of personal reasons -- and some may not.
"Our Trust and Safety team does not have insight into the use of every user's email address, and we need a policy that we can implement across all of our users in every instance."
I think this is weak and disingenuous. There's an obvious difference between someone with a personal grudge giving out the work email of someone not in the public eye, and a journalist pointing readers where to complain about a broadcaster shirking its public responsibilities (NBC was not showing important Olympic events live).
This is made clear at the very bottom of the post, where Macgillivray acknowledges that Twitter and NBC have a professional relationship for the duration of the Olympics and this affected its response to Adams' tweet.
"That said, we want to apologise 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," he writes.
"As I stated earlier, we do not proactively report or remove content on behalf of other users no matter who they are. This behaviour 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."
Twitter is treading a fine line when it starts snitching on users who tweet nasty things about its corporate chums. Its reputation rests, at least in part, on being seen as a bastion of free speech, a place people can talk truth to power and say no to The Man. That was its strength during the Arab Spring. If it abandons that and becomes just another sponsor-approved churn of PR-positive vacuous nonsense, then it's dead.
I think it should have apologised directly to Adams, acknowledged that its Trust and Safety team should have shown more discretion, and promised to be completely transparent about its corporate relationships in future. Speak your own truth in the comments, or on our Big Brother-approved Facebook page.