eBrandz Blog

Twitter struggles to balance out freedom of users and interests of brands

Twitter has had a difficult time in spite of the site playing such an important role in the London Olympic Games thus far, giving sports lovers unparalleled insights and information of the events, athletes’ village, the Games’ sidelights. The networking site was forced to apologize after suspending British journaltis Guy Adams’s account. He had criticized coverage of the Games by NBC during the Opening Ceremony, in particular. Adams allegedly ‘publicized’ the corporate email ID of the president of NBC Olympics, Gary Zenkel, in one of his tweets.

What’s public or private on Twitter?

The British journalist argued that the mail address was already publicly available. However, Twitter seemingly took the view that Adams had divulged private information, a practice that the social site doesn’t permit. Moreover, Twitter had first alerted the network to Adams’ tweets, and not the other way round! Given that both Twitter and NBC are known to be commercial partner for the Olympics 2012, many people using the service have questioned its motivation, left confused by the decision. This forced the micro-blogging site to issue an apology for its actions.

These incidents can be seen as the growing pains of a new media company yet to crack its winning revenue model. Twitter, in the process, has apparently annoyed both a key client and its users by trying to keep both happy in the same space. The problem is only going to get acute for Twitter in its effort to engage more and more companies to pay for promoted tweets or adverts and meaningful content partnerships on the platform.

Tweeters left confused

On the other hand, the suspension of Guy Adams’s Twitter account has left a section of tweeters rather confused about what’s and is not actually allowed on it. What then are the rules? Also more crucially, when can Twitter resort to suspending a user account? The rules posted on its ‘help centre’, state its users ought not to impersonate others with an intention of misleading or deceiving others. Tweeters are not supposed to infringe trademarks of companies by either assuming their logo or name as part of their profile.

Twitter members must not publish private or confidential information of other people, such as home address or credit card numbers, sans their express permission. People will be suspended from the site permanently in case they send spam or abuse perpetually, defined as ‘specific threats of violence against other users’.

Tweeters are not allowed to infringe copyright rules, use the social site for any illegal purpose (adhering to the home country’s laws from which he or she is tweeting) or make any misuse of Twitter verification badges that denote authenticity of an account with a blue tick. Twitter users are cautioned against using pornographic or obscene images in either user background or profile picture.

The guidelines state accounts might get suspended if any of the terms of service are found to be violated. This is easier said than done! Twitter, by its very nature, is an open forum. Most remarks on it go uncensored. Not less than one billion tweets are published, every three days, and many of these carry negative comments about businesses or brands. So it’s understandable some companies are thinking of withdrawing their future investments allocated to promote themselves on the popular social media sites, especially in light of the fact that they’re not sure of the tangible gains and leave themselves exposed to unfettered criticism.