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?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...

Ashdown Group: Java Developer - Hertfordshire - £47,000 + bonus + benefits

£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive - Nationwide - OTE £65,000

£30000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small technology business ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Ice skating in George Square, Glasgow  

How many Christmas cards have you sent this year?

Simon Kelner
 

Al-Sweady Inquiry: An exercise in greed that blights the lives of brave soldiers

Richard Kemp
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Scandi crush: Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

Th Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum
France's Front National and the fear of a ‘gay lobby’ around Marine Le Pen

Front National fear of ‘gay lobby’

Marine Le Pen appoints Sébastien Chenu as cultural adviser
'Enhanced interrogation techniques?' When language is distorted to hide state crimes

Robert Fisk on the CIA 'torture report'

Once again language is distorted in order to hide US state wrongdoing
Radio 1’s new chart host must placate the Swifties and Azaleans

Radio 1 to mediate between the Swifties and Azaleans

New chart host Clara Amfo must placate pop's fan armies
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

The head of Veterans Aid on how his charity is changing perceptions of ex-servicemen and women in need
Torture: It didn't work then, it doesn't work now

Torture: It didn't work then, it doesn't work now

Its use is always wrong and, despite CIA justifications post 9/11, the information obtained from it is invariably tainted, argues Patrick Cockburn
Rebranding Christmas: More public bodies are refusing to give the festival its name for fear of causing offence

Rebranding Christmas

More public bodies are refusing to give the festival its name for fear of causing offence. They are missing the point, and we all need to grow up