Twitter apologizes for blocking newspaper’s URLs

Twitter’s Andrew Fitzgerald apologized Monday to Philadelphia City Paper reporter Daniel Denvir for an episode last week when Twitter wasn’t allowing users to access the paper’s stories through tweeted URLs, Denvir told Poynter in a phone call.

Denvir said Fitzgerald told him the outage was a mistake resulting from a false positive picked up by Twitter’s team that combats spam.

On Thursday, Denvir told The Atlantic’s Rebecca J. Rosen on Thursday he was delaying the publication of one story that could have consequences in Tuesday’s elections in the region, about a “judge who is up for a retention vote on Tuesday, a judge who once ruled that sexual assault against a prostitute could not legally constitute rape,” as Rosen characterizes it.

Twitter didn’t reply to the Philadelphia City Paper’s requests for clarification till Monday, Denvir said. Fitzgerald told him the company is working on improving its support apparatus, especially with regard to media organizations.

Denvir began sending out what he calls “protest tweets” on Wednesday.

But on Thursday, “we were still blocked,” he said. The paper began tweeting links to posts on a Tumblr blog, which in turn linked to its stories.

Philadelphia City Paper’s URLs just started working again on Halloween evening, without any response from Twitter through the weekend that let the paper know what went hinky. Denvir told Rosen the paper depends on social media to get its stories to a wider audience. “Our webpage is not many people’s homepage,” he said. In an email to Poynter Sunday night, he said Philadelphia City Paper gets “a lot more traffic from Facebook,” but Twitter shares are important, too.

I asked him whether this incident has prompted him and his coworkers to reconsider how they get their stories out there. “I would say our response has been more philosophical than operational,” he wrote in reply. “I think that the news industry as a whole needs to think carefully about its dependence on third-party social media platforms as key nodes for distributing content published online. Someone should figure out a solution. It probably won’t be us, however, since we are a very small paper.”

Twitter recently hired Vivian Schiller to be its head of news, someone who can help media organizations find new and better ways to get their content in front of more people. Denvir says Fitzgerald told him City Paper’s guerilla campaign was the right thing to do. Twitter declined to comment to Poynter.

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