Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Twitter Reinstates Adams' Account, NBC Files Complaint Against Itself for Posting Corporate Contact Information

SAN NARCISO, Calif. (Bennington Vale Evening Transcript) -- After suspending Independent journalist Guy Adams' Twitter account, under dubious reasoning and at the behest of NBC, Twitter Inc. announced Tuesday the restoration of Adam's account. The decision came after public outcry and a well-reasoned explanation from Adams about accusations that he released the private email address of NBC's Olympics president Gary Zenkel. On Monday, Adams acted as a mouthpiece for millions of frustrated viewers when he posted, "The man responsible for NBC pretending the Olympics haven't started yet is Gary Zenkel. Tell him what u think! Email: Gary.zenkel@nbcuni.com." Adam's critical tweet came in response to Gary.zenkel@nbcuni.com's decision to delay broadcasting the opening ceremonies of the games by six hours. NBC Sports spokesman Christopher.mccloskey@nbcuni.com (whose phone number and email are published on NBC's site) was contacted by Twitter after Adams posted disparaging tweets about the network, prompting NBC to file a complaint with the social media site to protect their executive. Although Twitter issued an apology and reinstated Adam's privileges, Gary.zenkel@nbcuni.com has filed a series of additional complaints with other companies -- including NBC, Google and "whoever owns the Internet" -- that allow the filthy rabble of hoi polloi to contact him.

According to the account suspension notice Twitter sent Adams on Monday, the British journalist had violated policy, which prohibits users from divulging the personal information of others. However, that same policy excuses the posting of information available elsewhere on the Internet. Adams' reply to Twitter exposed serious flaws with the rationale behind the revocation of his account.

You will, I am sure, be aware that your own privacy policy, which you have urged me to read, states that "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."

Mr Zenkel's email address HAD been posted on the internet prior to being put on Twitter, Therefore can you explain how my Tweet violated your policy? Or are you making this up as you go along?

Moreover, I just received a copy of a written statement from an NBC spokesman called Christopher McCloskey. It was issued via email this evening to Amy Willis, a correspondent at the Daily Telegraph, in answer to her query regarding how NBC's complaint came to be lodged with Twitter, and how NBC originally became aware of my original Tweet.

Mr McCloskey states (and I quote): "Our social media dept was actually alerted to it by Twitter and then we filled out the form and submitted it."

Unless he is lying, this means that my account was suspended after Twitter decided, at its own behest, to get in touch with a commercial partner in order to encourage them to have a hostile journalist removed from the Twitter-sphere.

Surely this runs against everything your company is supposed to represent? And surely it completely undermines Twitter's entire raison d'etre, corporate ethos, etc?

While Adams persuaded Twitter to realize the error of its ways, his revelation that Gary.zenkel@nbcuni.com's corporate email address was already publicly accessible drove Gary.zenkel@nbcuni.com and other NBC employees to embark on a crusade to protect their privacy.

In June, for example, Gary.zenkel@nbcuni.com's corporate email appeared on NBC Sports' Facebook page. Basic searches on Google for NBC executives also produced results for Gary.zenkel@nbcuni.com on financial sites, business networking sites and others.

Even more insidious, NBC representatives said, the company's own website facilitates communication with Gary.zenkel@nbcuni.com.

"We had no idea how widespread this problem was," said Shauna Tarriespaw, a media relations spokesperson for NBC. "We discovered that all of our executives' names, positions and biographies are posted in full public view on the company website. And even worse, phone numbers, email addresses and 'contact us' forms follow. By just dialing a number or submitting a web form, Gary.zenkel@nbcuni.com and other executives at NBC could be contacted by or receive correspondence from the public. We're working tirelessly to resolve these infringements on our privacy."

NBC attorneys issued a plethora of Cease and Desist letters to Facebook, Google and over 50,000 journalists and bloggers on the Internet. They also sent similar orders to every ISP they could find, demanding that any electronic transmissions including "nbcuni.com" be suppressed. In addition, they made the unprecedented move of filing a legal complaint against their own marketing division for including contact information on the corporate website.

"Even with all these protections, the company's email formatting conventions -- first name dot last name at nbcuni.com -- were documented and well known," Tarriespaw added. "Any idiot could've figured out how to reach Gary.zenkel@nbcuni.com, really. So we're changing our email address configurations to a binary code, followed by the executive's Social Security Number and mother's maiden name. Hopefully, this will prevent any person not affiliated with NBC from ever getting in touch with one of us again in the future, for any reason."

(c) 2012. See disclaimers.
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