Guy Adams: Twitter backs down at last - but why did I get banned?

While our writer has got his account back, the social media giant is saying very little about why it was suspended

Share

In the green room at CNN's Los Angeles studio last night, a producer asked for my reaction to the still-breaking news that Twitter had decided, in their words, to "un-suspend" my account.

"I feel," I replied, "like Nelson Mandela walking through the streets of Cape Town, circa 1990." The producer looked at me, aghast. "Whatever you do," she commanded, "do not go and say that when we put you on air."

Joking aside, the situation neatly summed up the absurdity of a course of events which allowed a snarky, 140-character-or-less piece of prose, which ought to have sunk without trace, become the subject of a viral news story which is still being debated across the international media landscape. At about 6pm, London time, shortly before that green-room conversation, I had received an email from "Twitter support," announcing that I was no longer verboten in Twitter-land.

"Your account was suspended because a complaint was filed stating that you had violated our terms of service," it read. "We have just received an updated notice from the complainant retracting the original request. Therefore, your account has been unsuspended, and no further action is required from you at this time."

End of story, right? Well... yes and no. Twitter's decision allows me to Tweet again. That's happy news; or, to use the vernacular of social media, *happy* news. But there are plenty of things that it does not do, some of which have set awkward precedents. Twitter has not yet explained how exactly the tweet that led to my suspension is supposed to have broken its "privacy policy," which forbids users from posting "private email addresses" but says nothing about corporate email addresses, which is what I had actually shared.

It has not explained how its decision to suspend me can be squared with a clause in its own privacy policy which states that: "If information was previously posted or displayed elsewhere on the internet prior to being put on Twitter, it is not a violation" of the company's terms of service.

The email address of Gary Zenkel, the NBC executive at the heart of this affair, was posted on a blog established in 2011 by a group urging supporters to "boycott NBC"/. I found it there, prior to sending out Friday's offending tweet, in roughly 30 seconds via Google. Did Twitter's "trust and safety" department simply forget about its own rules when dealing with the complaint that led to my suspension? Or did it wilfully ignore them? We don't yet know.

There are wider issues at play. The company has yet to properly address growing suspicions that its decision to suspend my account was motivated by a business relationship with NBC. The firms are running a cross-promotion throughout the Olympics. Was that why it chose to ignore its own rules?

Yesterday, the website, which is supposedly dedicated to the democratic flow of conversation, did admit it had actually contacted its corporate partner urging it to complain so that my account could be shut down in the first place. A mea culpa on its blog said last night: "We want to apologise for the part of this story 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... Our trust and safety team did not know that part of the story and acted on the report as they would any other. 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... we will actively work to ensure this does not happen again."

MIA

In May 2010, the rapper, left, took revenge on journalist Lynn Hirschberg – who wrote an unflattering profile of her in the 'New York Times' magazine –

by posting her phone number on Twitter and suggesting her many thousands of fans call the author to talk about "the NYT truth issue". MIA was not chastised by Twitter, reportedly because Hirschberg did not press the issue.

Spike Lee

In March, the film director, right – who has more than 320,000 Twitter followers – retweeted a Florida address which was said to be that of George Zimmerman, the man accused of fatally shooting 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. It turned out to be the address of an elderly couple who were forced to flee. He apologised and reportedly settled with the couple, but was not suspended.

Roseanne Barr

The American comedienne, above, followed in Mr Lee's footsteps – but this time successfully tweeted Zimmerman's parents' address. She swiftly deleted the tweet under a shower of criticism from many of her followers (numbering more than 100,000) – but again was not suspended from the site.

Barbra Streisand

The singer's row over the online publication of photographs of her Malibu home may not have played out on Twitter, but it did coin a term – "the Streisand effect" – which is now commonly seen across social networks. In 2003, attempts by Streisand, below, to get the pictures taken down resulted in them going viral and ended up drawing more attention to the images.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Hire Manager - Tool Hire

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is seeking someone w...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

I don't blame parents who move to get their child into a good school

Chris Blackhurst
William Hague, addresses delegates at the Conservative party conference for the last time in his political career in Birmingham  

It’s only natural for politicians like William Hague to end up as journalists

Simon Kelner
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent