Washington - Twitter on Tuesday restored the account of a British journalist whose suspension following his criticism of US broadcaster NBC's Olympics coverage had sparked an outcry.
Amid a flurry of comments suggesting Twitter had put its commercial concerns over those of media integrity, the account of Guy Adams, Los Angeles correspondent for The Independent newspaper, was restored.
“Oh. My Twitter account appears to have been un-suspended. Did I miss much while I was away?” he tweeted.
Adams was suspended from Twitter for publishing the email account of a high-ranking NBC executive in one of his tweets. He had tweeted his outrage over NBC's decision to delay broadcasting the opening ceremony in order to catch the primetime audience.
Twitter and NBC have what the companies say is a strategic, non-financial partnership for online content during the Olympics, but media analysts said the fact that Twitter alerted NBC of Adams's criticism had serious implications.
Adams said later he got an email from Twitter saying, “We have just received an update from the complainant retracting their original request.”
Twitter's handling of the matter - particularly its suspension following a complaint from NBC - raised a howl of protests from analysts saying the company was failing to live up to its obligations to protect the free flow of information.
“This is the inevitable result of what happens when we safeguard our free-speech protections to private corporations,” said Dan Kennedy, a Northeastern University journalism professor who writes a media blog.
“In the new interdependent media environment, your right to speak and write freely extends only as far as someone else's business interests,” Kennedy told AFP, questioning whether Twitter had provided impartial media coverage.
Jeff Jarvis, a City University of New York journalism professor, made the same point about how journalists and companies should operate in social media.
“Twitter is going to have to learn the lesson that newspapers had to learn when they started accepting advertising: that when trust is your asset, you must run your service and your business according to principles of trust,” Jarvis wrote on his “Buzz Machine” blog.
“Newspapers built church/state walls to demonstrate that they could not be bought by sponsors' influence. Twitter needs that wall,” he said.
Digital media analyst Rebecca Lieb of the Altimeter Group said:
“Twitter is getting a deserved black eye for disabling Guy Adams' account.”
“This sets a dangerous precedent,” she told AFP.
“Twitter has been lauded in the past for protecting its users, for example against government requests for information. Twitter could suffer possibly irreparable damage if it demonstrates the interests of a business partner take precedence over its policies and users.”
Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Adams earlier said Twitter had bowed to pressure from the broadcaster, claiming he had not contravened the site's rules.
He maintained that he did not publish a private email address, “just a corporate one.”
NBC Sports on Monday released a statement saying: “We filed a complaint with Twitter because a user tweeted the personal information of one of our executives.” - Sapa-AFP