Tuesday 31 July 2012

Twitter is NOT where the party is at

You couldn't possible have missed the messy story around NBC and Twitter, resulting in suspension of Guy Adams' Twitter account. Guy's latest reaction on that is here, and contains the concise version.

Update July 31st 21:15 GMT+2: Guy Adam's account has been unsuspended:

Oh. My Twitter account appears to have been un-suspended. Did I miss much while I was away?
— Guy Adams (@guyadams) July 31, 2012

I do have to say that "which is widely listed online" is an exaggeration for sure, as it's only to be found on one site

I remember that it was also in a comment to a 2008 post on that same site, but can't possibly find that anymore now the web has been littered with Gary Zenkel's email address. In an action that started 10 hours ago, people have been tweeting and blogging the email address and since then it's been mentioned over a thousand times on Twitter, and if you Google for it you'll currently get close to ten thousand results

I really do wonder where this will end up. First, I never read beyond the list of Twitter Rules and thus didn't make it to the private information excerpt which reads:

Posting another person’s private and confidential information is a violation of the Twitter Rules.
Some examples of private and confidential information are:
  • credit card information
  • social security or other national identity numbers
  • addresses or locations that are considered and treated as private
  • non-public, personal phone numbers
  • non-public, personal email addresses
Keep in mind that although you may consider certain information to be private, not all postings of such information may be a violation of this policy. If information was previously posted or displayed elsewhere on the Internet prior to being put on Twitter, it is not a violation of this policy.

If the private information you’re reporting is not your own, please note that you must have documentation that you’re authorized to act on behalf of the person whose confidential information is posted

After all, like the Twitter Rules say:

Having Trouble? Check out our complete list of articles outlining our policies, guidelines, and best practices

I didn't have trouble, so stuck to the brief explanation in the Rules:

  • Privacy: 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

"Private and confidential" and the examples there are clear to me: this is sensitive information you never give out in public, and if you do give it out it's on a transaction-basis only, to one single party at a time

Now how can an email be private and confidential? You give it out the moment you use email, there's no legitimate way on earth to prevent that (and highly tech at that). I get what Twitter is after, but some refrasing would help here

The moral of the story?
I think that Guy Adams didn't know that Gary's email was online and as such may be considered to have broken a rule he probably wasn't aware of - I likely would have done the same as I wouldn't consider a corporate email account to be private - all of them are Firstname.Lastname@company.com and easy to guess.
Terms of Service could use a refinement. I see a big nuance between the short Privacy rules, and the detailed ones. To keep the ToS as short a spossible, I suggest to just mention email (and telephone number?) in the short version, and explain that in the detailed one.
And Twitter should apologise and reinstate Guy's account, but they highly likely will - although it's not like a rage went across Twitter; Guy's been mentioned 5 times a minute in the last hours, where usually 5-20 a second are needed to become trending

Still, the lip-service Twitter is paying here is once again proving that power corrupts, and institutionalisation (becoming a large body of anything) makes reason disappear and allows people to treat others like dirt, just for the greater good. The partnership with NBC Universal that Twitter took up last week is pretty much one of those "mustn't go wrong" undertakings for which sacrifices are gladly made

Closing comments? In the same Wall Street Journal post that announces the partnership, Chloe Sladden, Twitter's media head, says:

Twitter believes the Olympics partnership with NBC is a chance to cement that status. It means "Twitter is really where the party is"

Twitter used to be a good party until now - they clearly are the party poopers in this case

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