Twitter has admitted that a commercial relationship with NBC played a central part in its censorship this week of a user who had criticised the US broadcaster’s coverage of the Olympics.
The disclosure that the company’s own business interests had led to the controversial censorship decision brought a torrent of critical tweets on Tuesday, making the case a prominent test of Twitter’s ability to build a profitable business without undermining its self-declared status as one of the web’s most open platforms for self-expression.
“If we cannot rely on Twitter to protect our free speech, then it is no platform at all,” tweeted Jeff Jarvis, a journalism professor at the City University of New York and a widely followed commentator on new media.
The damaging admission sprang from the suspension earlier this week of the account of Guy Adams, the Independent newspaper’s Los Angeles correspondent. Mr Adams had been outspoken in his criticism of NBC’s decision to delay television coverage of key Olympic events until primetime rather than show them live, adding to a barrage of online criticism over the issue.
Mr Adams’ Twitter account was suspended indefinitely after he published the work email address of the president of NBC’s Olympics operations and encouraged his followers to send their complaints directly. The executive, Gary Zenkel, has since received a flood of emails, according to a person familiar with the matter…