Sometimes when there seems to be injustice in the world, we must come to the aid of those who have been wronged if they are not able, on their own, to defend themselves. Sometimes, however, we will see someone who appears to be crying out for help — but realize that they aren’t nearly as helpless as they appear. Such is the case with British journalist Guy Adams, who had his Twitter account suspended after he posted some tweets that were critical of NBC’s extremely poor coverage of the Olympic Games in the UK.
If you didn’t keep up with the news on the Olympics and the coverage of them, what happened was that not only was the coverage of the Olympics bad but it was so bad that it got one of the most popular hashtags on Twitter in the last few weeks — NBCFAIL. Many are reporting that because Adams was critical of the shoddy NBC coverage (which even cut out performances at the closing ceremonies so that they could instead show the boring new NBC “comedy” Animal Practice with no commercial interruptions.
If this were all that there were to the situation — that a journalist criticized NBC, and then NBC went and complained to Twitter, which then got the journalist suspended on their service — you’d have a great argument for a bad case of censorship by Twitter for no good reason other than Big Money was talking, and Twitter wanted to obey. Digging into the story a little bit deeper yields a result about which not quite everyone is shouting because it doesn’t fit in so nicely with the idea of a big corporate bully getting someone censored.
It turns out that not only did Adams complain about NBC, but he also tweeted the private and unpublished e-mail address of the president of NBC Olympics and encouraged people to e-mail him with complaints about their coverage. A noble effort, indeed, perhaps — but also explicitly against the rules of Twitter, which state that you cannot publish private information about a person using Twitter and that anybody who does this will get their accounts suspended. That is exactly what Adams did and that and no other action got his account suspended.
Perhaps the next time someone yells “CENSORSHIP!” we may have to look more carefully to see that it is really censorship and not just a simple matter of breaking some well established rules.