By now every has likely heard about Twitter suspending the account of journalist Guy Adams of The Independent for the crime of rankling NBC’s collective ego by disparaging the network’s Olympic coverage.
Adams tweeted out the corporate email address of a NBC executive as part of his ongoing complaints about the coverage.
Twitter flagged the tweet and send it to NBC. If this wasn’t bad enough, Twitter also recommended that NBC file a formal complaint in order to have Adams’ account suspended. The reason? Twitter forbids publishing other people’s personal information in its terms of service.
According to Twitter:
“You may not publish or post other people’s private and confidential information, such as credit card numbers, street address or Social Security/National Identity numbers, without their express authorization and permission.”
NBC followed Twitter’s advice and Twitter closed down Adams’ account.
Needless to say this did not go over well – especially on Twitter. Twitter also picked on the wrong type of individual – a vocal journalist with thousands of followers and a media company behind him.
Twitter quickly reversed itself, issued a self-serving apology via its blog, and reinstated Adams. It also helped that the information that Adams shared was readily available online anyway.
This episode provides us all with a good reminder: Social media is NOT the Internet.
The Internet is an open system but social media networks are most definitely not. It’s easy to forget. Facebook and Twitter feel like open systems. This is because social media accounts are so personalized that it is easy to forget that the account doesn’t actually belong to you or your company. It’s actually being loaned to you. Social networks have access to all of your information – no matter how private you make them. And social networks can ban you from their sites for just about any reason that they like.
Terms of service is a fancy legal term for “restrictions.” The terms spell out the dos, but mostly the don’ts of using the social network. Violating these terms can mean suspension or termination.
This is from Facebook’s terms of service:
“If you violate the letter or spirit of this Statement, or otherwise create risk or possible legal exposure for us, we can stop providing all or part of Facebook to you.”
There you go. That’s anything BUT an open network. Most social networks have terms that read about the same. As more communications and marketing goes social issues like the one Guy Adams faced are only going to increase.
Brands need to be cognizant that social networks are corporate properties – and not necessarily their own corporation properties.
What do you think? Are terms of service too strict? Should social networks be more open?
CNET story on Twitter’s Olympic suspension
Twitter’s terms of service
Twitter’s blog post on the suspension
Guy Adams on Twitter