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Critic of NBC has Twitter account suspended after network complains

Dan Wetzel
Yahoo Sports

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Guy Adams (Mashable)

Guy Adams works as a writer for The Independent, a national newspaper in Great Britain. He lives in Los Angeles. Throughout the Olympics, he's taken to Twitter and ripped NBC repeatedly for its coverage of the Games in America.

Namely, he's criticized the network's reliance on using tape delays, a frustration shared by millions of viewers.

Only in a marriage of old media and social media, Guy Adams no longer has a Twitter account. It was suspended Tuesday, and both NBC and Twitter ought to be humiliated by their thin-skinned, heavy-handed, and essentially pointless behavior.

Adams was no doubt relentless in his tweets.

"Am I alone in wondering why NBColympics think its [sic] acceptable to pretend this road race is being broadcast live?" he wrote in one.

"Matt Lauer: ‘Madagascar, a location indelibly associated with a couple of recent animated movies,'" he mocked on another.

Adams encouraged Lauer "to shut up" and called out Gary Zenkel, the president of NBC Olympics, as the "moronic exec behind the time delay." And he said Zenkel should be fired.

[ More reaction: Suspension of Adams' account angers many ]

That's essentially how Twitter works, of course. It can be profane, reactionary, and often ridiculous. It breeds all sorts of over-the-top anger, outrageous talk, and off-the-handle opinions.

Adams said in a column for The Independent that Twitter claimed he crossed the line by tweeting out Zenkel's corporate email address and encouraging his followers to contact the executive directly.

The email address is easily identifiable, common with how thousands of NBC/Univision employees' email addresses are determined.

Twitter soon suspended Adams' account, he said. In a story he wrote in The Independent, Adams wrote that after filing an article critical of NBC's coverage, he checked his Twitter account only to find it had been suspended. When he inquired why, he received the following response: "Your Twitter account has been suspended for posting an individual's private information such as private email address."

With that, the account was gone.

And a controversy was born.

[ Related: Problems plague NBC's Olympics streaming ]

Adams said he emailed Rachel Bremer, Twitter's head of European PR, to dispute that he broke Twitter's rules. The email address Adams tweeted wasn't a private address belonging to Zenkel, Adams wrote, but a corporate one attainable to anyone with access to Google.

"It's no more 'private' than the address I'm emailing you from right now," Adams wrote Bremer. "Either way, [it's] quite worrying that NBC, whose parent company are an Olympic sponsor, are apparently trying (and, in this case, succeeding) in shutting down the Twitter accounts of journalists who are critical of their Olympic coverage."

The decision, as expected, has gone over poorly on the website, where the freedom to express one's opinions, especially against high-ranking executives of multinational corporations, is highly valued.

Which makes the decision a colossal mistake. You could argue forever whether Zenkel's corporate email is really "private."

You'd have to be a trusting soul to think Twitter really cared.

The issue here is that NBC and Twitter formed a corporate "partnership" for the London Games "to bring Olympic coverage and social conversation to viewers everywhere," according to a pre-Games news release. "During the games, Twitter is using its Olympics events page to highlight insiders' views, and to encourage people to watch NBC's on-air and online coverage."

So, first, they team up and then coincidentally one of the network's most relentless critics gets booted from the website? Earlier this year, film director Spike Lee tweeted what turned out to be an incorrect home address for George Zimmerman, the accused killer of Trayvon Martin. Twitter didn't suspend Lee's account.

[ Related: Tape-delayed Opening Ceremony turns out to be ratings gold for NBC ]

The Independent's deputy managing editor, Archie Bland, confirmed that Adams' account was suspended for mentioning the email address. Bland tweeted himself that it's "reasonable to ask whether the suspension also had to do with his criticism of NBC's coverage of the Games and whether they'd usually take the same step."

Twitter has yet to respond for comment. NBC released a statement confirming that it contacted Twitter.

"We filed a complaint with Twitter because a user tweeted the personal information of one of our executives," the network said. "According to Twitter, this is a violation of their privacy policy. Twitter alone levies discipline."

On the rank of world transgression, some snarky journalist losing his tweeting privileges is incredibly low. This isn't even a First Amendment issue. The government isn't trying to silence the public.

This is a public-relations gaffe, and it's hard to imagine how Twitter didn't see it coming.

First, the account suspension directed far more attention to Adams' criticism than if he had simply been ignored. Second, it's an embarrassment for Zenkel. He now looks like some overly sensitive suit.

Twitter is what Twitter is – most people get slammed, at some point, on that website. The head of NBC Olympics not only should've expected the criticism, he should now expect a great deal more of it.

[ Related: NBC blasted for not showing Olympics live ]

What Adams ranted about hardly mattered. Yes, the tape delay was frustrating. The same for the network's often poor performing online streams.

The American viewing public was tuning in at night in record numbers anyway. That was proof NBC's old formula could not only survive in today's instant information age, it could thrive.

Adams was losing. NBC was winning.

Until Twitter suspended an account and the story got reversed, making a villain out of its partner and a social media hero out of the partner's critic.

It's one more social media casualty in an Olympics full of them.

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