The suspension of the Twitter account of journalist Guy Adams highlights the disconnect in how we view social media.
Adams, The Independent’s Los Angeles correspondent, was suspended by Twitter for supposedly violating the service’s rules when he published the corporate email address of an NBC executive.
The decision prompted a backlash on Twitter, with thousands of angry #nbcfail messages and suspicions about the reasons behind the suspension, given that Adams had been one of the most vocal critics of NBC’s handling of the Olympics through his tweets.
Adams, himself, has suggested 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.”
At the core of the issue is the role that social media platforms such as Twitter play in the way we connect and communicate today.
We tend to view these social media services as public utilities that can alert us to the latest breaking news, help forment revolution as in the Middle East or bring a smile to our faces when we read a witty comment.
Yet Twitter and the raft of social media platforms are private companies with their own commercial interests. They have to perform a delicate balancing act as they depend on their users for the value of the service.
Without the millions of people sharing millions of updates every day, Twitter would be of little use to anyone.
Since the users create the value of the service, they end up feeling a sense of ownership and resent what is seen as corporate censorship in their communication space.
The tension between Twitter as a public utility and as a private company remains unresolved, yet social media services are woven into the fabric of how we communicate.
(Photo courtesy of Maureen Barlin)