Twitter apologises for betraying the trust of its users

Posted: 31/07/2012 in Social Media
Tags: , ,

For those who read my previous post, you will have read how Twitter banned a journalist for being critical of NBC’s Olympic coverage and for tweeting a business email of the person in charge of their coverage. It turns out that Twitter did encourage NBC to file a formal complaint. Over the last 24 hours though this has cause huge uproar on the social media side from the user base and for me it can only be seen as a victory for freedom of speech and an embarrassing climbdown for both Twitter and NBC. The full explanation from Twitter is below…

We want to take a moment to explain some of our general Trust and Safety policies and procedures, and address the specific case at hand that has unfolded over the past 48-hours (we normally don’t address matters pertaining to individual accounts for the privacy of the account, but here the relevant communications are now public).

When our Trust and Safety team receives a report from a user explaining that his/her private personally-identifiable information has been posted on Twitter, we investigate the issue and temporarily suspend the account if it is found to be violating our Guidelines & Best Practices. We make it possible for people to report posting of their private information because it may be used to harass or intimidate, and in certain circumstances may even be illegal. We have systems in place to address such behavior. 

Before the violating account is unsuspended, we ask the account holder to do two things:
we ask that they confirm that they understand our private information policy, and
we ask them to state that going forward they will follow the Twitter Terms of Service. 
Once they have confirmed this for us in their email response, their account is unsuspended. Additionally, if we receive a notice from the complainant rescinding their original complaint, the account is unsuspended.

The Trust and Safety team does not actively monitor users’ content. In all cases, whether the user is the head of a major corporation, a celebrity, or a regular user, we require a report to be filed at our abusive users webform. Not only do we need a report, but we need a report from the person whose private information has been posted, or someone who is able to legally act on their behalf. We do not proactively report or remove private information on behalf of other users, no matter who they are. 

We’ve seen a lot of commentary about whether we should have considered a corporate email address to be private information. There are many individuals who may use their work email address for a variety of personal reasons — and some may not. Our Trust and Safety team does not have insight into the use of every user’s email address, and we need a policy that we can implement across all of our users in every instance.

That said, we want to apologize for the part of this story that we did mess up. The team working closely with NBC around our Olympics partnership did proactively identify a Tweet that was in violation of the Twitter Rules and encouraged them to file a support ticket with our Trust and Safety team to report the violation, as has now been reported publicly. Our Trust and Safety team did not know that part of the story and acted on the report as they would any other.

As I stated earlier, we do not proactively report or remove content on behalf of other users no matter who they are. This behavior is not acceptable and undermines the trust our users have in us. We should not and cannot be in the business of proactively monitoring and flagging content, no matter who the user is — whether a business partner, celebrity or friend. As of earlier today, the account has been unsuspended, and we will actively work to ensure this does not happen again.

Posted by Alex Macgillivray, General Counsel – @amac

As you can see Twitter have apologized for their “mistake” but the whole incident still raises questions about how likely are Twitter to “bend” their own rules to suit business partners in the future.

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