Twitter has not had a great 48 hours. After spending years developing a reputation as an especially open and free-speech-friendly platform, suddenly the company looks an enthusiastic handmaiden to corporate interests. And so it’s none too surprising to see a lengthy exegesis of corporate policy, complete with apology, appear on the official blog.
Of course, the company had little choice after NBC ratted out them out to the Telegraph, revealing that Twitter had contacted NBC and suggested they file a complaint regarding the gadfly journalist Guy Adams, who’d been lambasting the network’s Olympics coverage, including posting the email address of an NBC Sports exec. That complaint, of course, resulted in Mr. Adams’ suspension from Twitter, thereby quieting his nonstop complaints but unleashing a torrent of Internet fury.
Twitter’s tardy response, authored by general counsel Alex McGillivray, explains that, “The Trust and Safety team does not actively monitor users’ content,” adding:
In all cases, whether the user is the head of a major corporation, a celebrity, or a regular user, we require a report to be filed at our abusive users webform. Not only do we need a report, but we need a report from the person whose private information has been posted, or someone who is able to legally act on their behalf.
Mr. McGillivray brings it home with the final insistance that “We do not proactively report or remove private information on behalf of other users, no matter who they are.”
That’s all well and good, but the policy clearly wasn’t followed in this particular instance. And yes, Twitter owns up to that fact and apologizes:
That said, we want to apologize for the part of this story that 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, 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.
Chloe Sladden, Twitter’s VP of Media, also issued her own mea culpa:
I want to personally apologize for this oversight: blog.twitter.com/2012/07/our-ap…
— Chloe Sladden (@ChloeS) July 31, 2012
But as other observers have already pointed out, this wasn’t exactly an isolated incident. You can’t ride two horses with one ass. Is Twitter going to be a media company, partnering with outlets like NBC to feed peppy real-time updates into its coverage? Or will it be an open platform, an unregulated firehose where gleeful users can pile onto and usurp a hashtag for their own, often anarchic purposes?
Meanwhile, yet another Olympian has been shown the door for offensive remarks made on Twitter.
That choice of official mascot with an all-seeing, all-recording eye just looks more and more appropriate, doesn’t it?