Twitter Destroys Goodwill, Foreshadows Ugly Future With Guy Adams Situation

OPINION: Despite fighting censorship, Twitter now seems to be endorsing on its platform

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Twitter remains publicly silent more than 24 hours after banning British journalist Guy Adams for publishing NBC executive Gary Zenkel's work email address.

The natural assumption was that Adams, The Independent's Los Angeles bureau chief, was suspended because NBC complained to Twitter about Adams' disparaging remarks about the network's Olympics coverage. In addition to publishing Zenkel's email, Adams blasted NBC's tape-delay strategy and called the company "utter, utter bastards."

But it turns out that NBC wasn't the one that brought the Adams incident to Twitter's attention -- it was Twitter that informed NBC of the issue.

Christopher McCloskey, NBC Sports' vice president of communications, told the Daily Telegraph that Twitter contacted NBC's social media department and the company subsequently filled out Twitter's abuse form.

Twitter's policy guide prohibits posting a person's private information, but as many have pointed out, publishing Zenkel's work email doesn't equate to posting private information. Not only was his email address available if you performed a simple Google search, but all NBC employees have the same general email address -- firstname.lastname@nbcuni.com.

It also reeks of favoritism and hypocrisy on Twitter's behalf to protect their corporate partner for the Olympics over one of its legitimate users. After the story broke, Laura Gluhanich tweeted, "I wonder why Twitter never deleted the account that posted my home address and threatened to dismember me."

Jezebel pointed out that Twitter also did nothing when singer M.I.A. tweeted out the private phone number of a journalist after being upset about a New York Times Magazine story.

The whole situation goes against the whole persona and culture that Twitter has tried to create. The company has built up tremendous goodwill and seen incredible growth -- it now has more than 600 million users -- by fighting back on police orders and generally eschewing censorship as much as possible. Outside of that pesky 140-character limit, Twitter has essentially let the community self-police and the strategy has worked wonders.

But as the company continues to grow in financial value -- one estimate put it at $8 billion -- the company risks becoming more and more corporate. The trail-blazing, nothing to lose Twitter would have never banned Adams for such a silly reason, but this new, scarier Twitter is set on building profits and appeasing partners.

It shouldn't shock us that Twitter is headed this direction -- all hotshot companies eventually try to cash in -- but the heavy handedness in dealing with this situation foreshadows a future of more and more advertising, and less and less freedom on the platform.

Michael Humphrey, an adjust professor at Colorado State University and Forbes contributor, put it succinctly.

"But maybe you thought you were Twitter's customer. Or a partner. You're not. You don't pay, you don't vote, you use. Like almost all social media sites, you are a user. And that distinction matters. NBC, for instance, is both a customer and a partner. The difference has been fairly clear the last day or so."

Humphrey's words aren't surprising, but it sure is disappointing to see Twitter end up like every other social media website valuing money over its users after it had created so much goodwill for its defiant stance against censorship in Syria, Occupy Wall Street, and elsewhere.

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