Is Twitter Censoring Comments Critical Of NBC Olympic Coverage?

By July 31, 2012

I don’t like to jump on criticism bandwagons, especially when it is related to the Olympics.  I tend to park my cynicism during the Olympics. I want to believe in innocence, honesty and competitive greatness. But sometimes issues appear that I just can’t ignore.

This is one of those. This is different. This is about partnerships that cause motives to be called into question. This is about the appearance of a media giant doing things the way it suits them, despite what the audience wants. This is about the making wrong-headed decisions to quash any dissenting opinions.

My concern begins with Twitter and how they suspended British journalist Guy Adams’s Twitter account for allegedly violating Twitter’s terms by tweeting the work email address of Gary Zenkel, NBC’s executive in charge of its Olympics broadcast. Adams apparently included it in his rant against NBC’s delayed coverage of the London Olympics. Despite whether their was a violation or not, it’s the way Twitter went about addressing the issue that is deeply disturbing.

Twitter brought the dissenting comments to the attention of NBC (who was reportedly previously unaware). NBC then (presumably presented with the necessary paperwork) filled out the forms to have the account suspended without notice to the account holder.  Why would Twitter do this? To protect NBC. There is a Twitter-NBC Olympics partnership designed to bring the Olympics closer to the people. Unless you speak out, then the secret police skulks around in the night getting rid of you.


Last night (Monday) I was watching the Olympic coverage on NBC with family and friends.  The Men’s Gymnastics competition was winding up. The crowd was getting louder and louder, looking and pointing at the scoreboard that we could not see. There was no score or graphics put up the by the network for us to see.  There was obvious confusion ensuing as the crowd and the athletes became agitated. What was going on? Who knows? The NBC commentators were silent. Not a word for several minutes. Nothing but ambient noise from the crowd. Had the commentators been taken? Taken off the air? Couldn’t ONE of them have said, “There is confusion, something is going on, we are trying to find out.” At first it seemed like they were ignoring it, covering with inane banter. They soon must have realized how ridiculous they sounded and just fell silent.

Dumbfounded that the entire network crew would just abandon the millions of viewers leaving us hanging with no information, I posted a message in GetGlue (graphic above):

“NBC: I think there is something going on. The crowd is screaming, looking at the scoreboard we can’t see. And you say nothing to TV AUDIENCE. FAIL.”

I set the post to also post to Facebook and Twitter.  It arrived instantly in my Facebook timeline (see image). I didn’t find out until later that it DID NOT arrive on Twitter.  ALL my other comments from the night made it through to both Facebook and Twitter.  Just the critical comment(s) did not. There may be others but I don’t want to say until I’ve carefully compared the records.

Did Twitter filter my message out due to sentiment or content? Has anyone else noticed that some critical messages are not being posted? As I stated in the beginning, this could be an unlikely coincidence.  The problem is when you position yourself to be (or desire to become) a media channel that can topple world governments, you cannot have the APPEARANCE of censorship and secret purging of dissenters, especially when the criticism is leveled at your high-profile media partner in a deal that you have announced as groundbreaking.

Well, Twitter and NBC, you broke new ground alright.  You’ve managed to dig way back in history and return oppressive, secretive methods of silencing the very people you purport to serve. All the while, ignoring the wonderful possibilities of  creating the most flexible, engaging and meaningful coverage in the long history of the Olympics.  You both blew it. There’s no going back but you still have time to do it right and do the right thing.  What’s is going to be? It’s your move and the entire world is watching.

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