A new sport has emerged in the London Olympics and it's all the rage.
NBC's tape delaying of the 2012 Olympics has turned into target practice, with the social media world turning their aim towards NBC. And it's not peashooters aimed at the peacock, it's bazooka cannons. Lots of them. It was always going to be interesting to see how a thriving social media world affected the Olympics, and it's clear the central role of social media has been in holding NBC accountable for its old school tape delay coverage in a brave new world. While that tape delay strategy is working for NBC's business end, there's got to be a solution that can work for both the Olympic fan base that tunes in for the stories, nicely packaged and edited in primetime… and the sports, raw, uncut, and unfiltered.
Until that day comes, this is the volatile world NBC faces… and so far they've been one of their own worst enemies. NBC executives have been outspoken defending the tape delay strategy. Airing a spoiling commercial during their tape delay coverage was another moment of schadenfreude that brought delight to the #NBCFail crowd. But it was the suspension of the Twitter account of The Independent's Guy Adams that drew the most outrage for a series of events that had the impression of stamping out criticism by NBC and Twitter, who are partners for the Olympics.
Adams had been one of the most vocal critics of NBC's tape delay coverage, but his Twitter account was suspended when he posted the corporate e-mail of an NBC executive:
@guyadams The man responsible for NBC pretending the Olympics haven't started yet is Gary Zenkel. Tell him what u think! Email: Gary.firstname.lastname@example.org
NBC admitted to filing a complaint with Twitter and the service shut down Adams' account for violating its rules on posting personal information. However, in Adams' column after his suspension, it seems Twitter itself set these wheels in motion. Having Twitter be the ones to stamp out criticism is a whole new world entirely.
In the end though, this was the worst possible thing for NBC as the network's critics became even more vociferous over this apparent decimation of free speech. NBC's position is understandable, but NBC's corporate e-mail addresses aren't a huge secret as has been noted elsewhere. If anything, NBC and Twitter needed the foresight to realize the public backlash in having Adams silenced would do infinitely more damage than making an executive's corporate e-mail public. This is the key point raised by Adams in the wake of the controversy:
"Either way, [it's] quite worrying that NBC, whose parent company is an Olympic sponsor, is apparently trying (and, in this case, succeeding) in shutting down the Twitter accounts of journalists who are critical of their Olympic coverage."
The more NBC (and Twitter) does to hit back at online, print, and social media critics… the more empowered and entrenched they will become.
Expect this fury aimed at the parties involved to continue throughout the Games and not slow down anytime soon… because Adams is back on Twitter.