WASHINGTON - Twitter has come under fire for its handling of the account of a British journalist critical of US broadcaster NBC's Olympics coverage, with their commercial ties under the spotlight.
Guy Adams, the Los Angeles correspondent for The Independent newspaper, tweeted his outrage over NBC's decision to delay broadcasting Friday's opening ceremony in order to catch the primetime US audience.
But he was suspended from Twitter for publishing the email account of a high-ranking NBC executive.
Twitter and NBC have what the companies say is a strategic, non-financial partnership for online content during the Olympics, but media analysts said the fact that Twitter alerted NBC of Adams's criticism had raised concerns.
"This is the inevitable result of what happens when we safeguard our free-speech protections to private corporations," said Dan Kennedy, a Northeastern University journalism professor who writes a media blog.
"In the new interdependent media environment, your right to speak and write freely extends only as far as someone else's business interests," Kennedy told AFP, questioning whether Twitter had provided impartial media coverage.
Jeff Jarvis, a City University of New York journalism professor, made the same point about how journalists and companies should operate in social media.
"Twitter is going to have to learn the lesson that newspapers had to learn when they started accepting advertising: that when trust is your asset, you must run your service and your business according to principles of trust," Jarvis wrote on his "Buzz Machine" blog.
"Newspapers built church/state walls to demonstrate that they could not be bought by sponsors' influence. Twitter needs that wall," he said.
Adams also said Twitter had bowed to pressure from the broadcaster, claiming he had not contravened their rules.
"I'm of course happy to abide by Twitter's rules, now and forever," he said in an email to the popular micro-blogging service.
"But I don't see how I broke them in this case: I didn't publish a private email address. Just a corporate one.
NBC Sports later released a statement saying: "We filed a complaint with Twitter because a user tweeted the personal information of one of our executives," the London-based Independent said.