Guy Adams’ Twitter suspension lifted as NBC withdraws complaint

Sports Business Daily | The Independent | The Wall Street Journal
After a two-day suspension of his Twitter account, Guy Adams tweeted Tuesday afternoon:

Twitter suspended the NBC Olympics critic, a journalist for the British newspaper The Independent, this weekend based on a complaint from NBC that Adams had tweeted the email address of a network executive. NBC vice president for communications Chris McCloskey said Twitter alerted the network, its partner for the Olympic games, to Adams’ tweets. Soon after the complaint, Adams was suspended.

Adams quotes an email from Twitter today that says, “We have just received an update from the complainant retracting their original request … Therefore your account has been unsuspended.”

An unnamed NBC spokesman gave The Wall Street Journal this explanation today: “Our interest was in protecting our executive, not suspending the user from Twitter. We didn’t initially understand the repercussions of our complaint, but now that we do, we have rescinded it.”

Though tweeting again, Adams remains frustrated by the inability to reach anyone at Twitter to discuss the company’s decision.

They still haven’t fully clarified what happened, which is when we can really start to put this nonsense behind us…

The wall of silence that until last night emanated from the company was almost completely at odds with that in The Independent’s Los Angeles bureau. In the 90 minutes has taken to write this article, I have received almost 200 emails, from either supportive members of the public, or media organisations wanting to discuss the case with me. The telephone has barely stopped ringing.

In a live interview on CNN Tuesday afternoon, Adams said “I feel delighted and relieved,” but “what’s happened here isn’t entirely clear.”

NBC allegedly issued a complaint against me some time over the weekend. Twitter immediately suspended my account, saying I had breached their rules. I don’t think I had breached their rules. I don’t think any reasonable person reading their rules thinks I breached their rules. Twitter hasn’t commented on whether they think I’ve breached their rules or not. They’ve simply unfrozen my account, I think hoping I’ll go on tweeting about my very boring life from now on…

Why was I targeted for suspension when Spike Lee wasn’t? I suspect — I have no way of proving although there are various reasons to suspect — that the reason Twitter took the complaint against me seriously is because they have a commercial relationship with NBC and they wanted to give NBC, if you like, special treatment. I think Twitter needs to clarify whether that did happen…

I’d like to think that Twitter can’t, at the behest of a commercial organization, simply shut down a journalist without warning them, and take them out of circulation for 48 hours. I think it could be precedent setting unless Twitter explains exactly why I was suspended in the first place and what its rules actually are and how they should be applied in the future.

Meanwhile, NBC Sports Chairman Mark Lazarus answers the network’s critics by telling John Ourand he is sticking by the decision to air some popular competitions several hours late to get them before an American prime-time audience:

I think what we’ve proven is that the American viewing public likes the way we tell the story and wants to gather in front of the television with their friends and family — even if they have the ability to watch it live either on television or digitally … I inherently trust that decision is the right one and that people want to see these events.

This is a business. It’s not everyone’s inalienable right to get whatever they want. We are charged with making smart decisions for our company, for our shareholders and to present the product the way we believe is best.

The Olympics have garnered NBC record high ratings, despite criticism over the tape delay, its spoilers during newscasts and promos, and its role in Twitter’s suspension of Adams.

Twitter has now explained what happened:

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, as has now been reported publicly. Our Trust and Safety team did not know that part of the story and acted on the report as they would any other.

As I stated earlier, we do not proactively report or remove content on behalf of other users no matter who they are. This behavior 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. As of earlier today, the account has been unsuspended, and we will actively work to ensure this does not happen again.

Twitter General Counsel Alex McGillivray, who wrote the post, also personally apologized to Adams.

Related: Adams suspension punctuates Twitter’s evolution toward censorship

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  • Michael Rosenblum

    A small inexpensive camera (and the tech specs on these are pretty astonishing now), cutting on an iPad and uploading does not mean bad video. You have to train the journo.  give me 4 days and I can make anyone capable of shooting and delivering professional video.  Or, just buy my book iPhone Millionaire: Six Weeks to Change Your Life

  • Brian Wareham

    The BBC has really bought into providing people what they want at this games.  They have added 24 digital TV channels and have live streaming on their website.  It has completely revolutionised the way people are watching.  Of course they don’t have to worry about revenue from advertising as they are public service broadcaster, but it does look to be the way ahead.  One side effect which may not have been thought about though, everything is now available and it is possible to miss a lot of it if you concentrate on one particular sport.

  • Anonymous

    The “tried and true” model really collapsed for newspapers around, oh, 1995 or so when the Internet suddenly started becoming widely available and the response was “let’s just throw it all out there and figure out a way to make money off of it later.” (That argument sound familiar?) The implosion in 2008 was driven by the fact that advertising took a dive and newspapers had wasted an almost 15 year window to figure out a way to make money that wasn’t so dependent on advertising. But, of course, when you give people something for free, then start charging for it, you have to deal with criticism from “new media” types that scream and yell and hold their breath and stomp their feet about how nobody will pay for your content and you should continue to give it away despite proof that you can charge for content online if what you’re providing is worth paying for.  

    Yes, streaming video is the future. We’re on the same team there. But we have actual, tangible proof that what NBC is doing this year is working this year, so how can you argue that they’re doing it completely wrong? Doing it the same way four years from now would be silly, but NBC isn’t covering the Olympics the same way now as it did in 2008. Their coverage will evolve as the technology and the demands evolve; their coverage in 2016 will, I’m sure, include a lot more streaming video and probably the ability to subscribe to, say, badminton coverage if that’s your thing. (And after the hilarity of today, it should be everybody’s thing. I saw it online.)

    As for the argument that sending a single reporter with a cheap camera to every event is the way to go, it sounds an awful lot like the argument that newspapers didn’t have to invest in people who actually knew how to do audio, video and online, because all you had to do was hand a reporter a bag of gear and tell them to do everything. How’s that working out? Doing bad video and audio is as bad, if not worse, than not doing any at all, because you’ll quickly teach your readers or viewers that if they want good video of that archery match, they aren’t going to get it from you. Again: Do it in new formats, but do it RIGHT. Don’t just do it because it’s “the future.”

  • Anonymous

    Casey: I find that NBC’s “ratings records” are irrelevant. Consider the newspaper industry prior to its implosion from about 2008 on; it was seeing record profits from its legacy (print!) business (though readership continued to slide down), and many newspaper executives thought that the digital revolution wasn’t going to threaten them anytime soon. So wrong! It’s the same with the TV networks. Sure, NBC can play by the old rules with this Olympics and perhaps it’ll make a boatload of money. But just as with newspapers, its “tried and true” model will collapse at some point, probably not too far down the road.

    It’s my point of view that NBC should start now playing by the new rules. Sure, keep the prime-time broadcasts of the big Olympic events. But stream everything, because that’s the future and NBC better be ready when it’s the masses demanding live-everything and not just the (large!) user base of social media. In an instant-news world, it’s just dumb to not live-stream events that you’re putting on in prime time, many hours later; it just encourages would-be NBC live viewers to find it elsewhere. (Yes, more so tomorrow than today, probably.)

    As for the “expense” of live-covering every Olympic event, even the “small” ones, that’s possible and it’s cheap now. NBC doesn’t need to assign a reporter, producer, and camera crew to every minor event. Go look up Michael Rosenblum, champion of small format cheap video for broadcast and web. If NBC actually kept up with the times, it would have one-man broadcasters, a la Rosenblum, covering every event. If a sport has a small audience, big deal; you’ve devoted one journalist and some cheap equipment to making the sport’s small audience happy (and providing a nice targeted advertising opportunity).

  • JH

    NBC has been making the most ill-advised, public decisions of probably any media outlet today. 

  • Anonymous

     Well, I agree with you in a general sense about the importance of exploring new ways of providing coverage, but the flaw in the argument is that NBC is setting ratings records every night, so there must be some percentage of the audience that doesn’t care. Oh, wait. It’s probably the percentage that doesn’t use Twitter, which is FAR greater than the percentage that does.

    Here’s the thing about “social media backlashes.” They only really gain traction with people who are active on social media, which is still a relatively small chunk of the audience for something like the Olympics. Will that chunk continue to grow? Sure. But allowing the small percentage of the audience that whines on Twitter to dictate coverage only serves to alienate the people who want to come home from work and turn on the Olympics. (Or people like me who follow the results through the Web/social media, yet still want to watch the actual performances that night.)

    Also, NBC offers an amazing amount of live streaming right now, so the “offer both” argument is kind of pointless because it’s really “offer everything in every format that I could ever want it in at the times that I want it, regardless of whether it makes financial sense or not. Otherwise I’ll mock you on Twitter.” Most of the “big events” are streamed live and if the small ones aren’t, it’s probably because the audience would be so small that it wouldn’t be worth it.

  • Steve Outing

    “It’s not everyone’s inalienable right to get whatever they want.” … Spoken like a true media dinosaur about to get smashed by a social-media backlash. Lazarus is technically correct, of course, but in his position he’s hurting his company by being tone-deaf to what people increasingly want. By not offering live-streaming of some events, he just encourages those wanting to see big events live to go elsewhere (often to pirated streams). Tim is correct: Offer both. Figure out how to profit from that!! Holding back on anything live — especially the big events — is the way of media executives who really need to retire.

  • Anonymous

    How does an apology make up for muzzling a journalist for two days?

  • timwindsor

    Mark Lazarus is missing the point, I think. Nobody reasonable is saying that NBC should dump the prime time package. Just:

    - Offer real-time streaming of all events, IN ADDITION TO the well-loved prime time packages. Charge if you want to. If what you say about the family gathering in front of the teevee is true, this won’t affect that. After all, the fact that Michael Phelps, for instance, choked was well-known before the broadcast, thanks to the “spoilers” online.

    - Which brings us to spoilers. Please do a better job of protecting those very people — glued to their sets, tuned to your channel — who would prefer to be unspoiled. This means don’t run promos showing the winner before you air the event, for instance. 

    - Finally, be honest everywhere. Brian Williams: It’s okay to say something classier than, but in the same vein as, “spoilers ahead” in a newscast. On-Air Announcing Crew: Don’t pretend that the events you are about to show are live. Go ahead, say they were recorded earlier. Everyone knows they were; pretending otherwise is just an insult.

    - Don’t try to squash your critics on Twitter or elsewhere. It always (ALWAYS) blows up real bad.