The first social media Olympics have become a minefield for the Olympic movement—and especially for Twitter Inc., which has trumpeted its tight connection to the London Games.
Heading into the global sporting event, the International Olympic Committee touted its social-media capabilities and struck partnerships with Twitter, Facebook Inc., FB -3.73%and Google Inc.’s GOOG -0.82% YouTube, among others. Twitter, meanwhile, also played up its partnership with Comcast Corp.’s CMCSA +0.91% NBCUniversal, which is broadcasting the Games.
But since the Games kicked off Friday, the Olympics have become a flash point for social media run amok.
The biggest brouhaha so far erupted on Monday and Tuesday, when a finger-pointing spat emerged over a journalist getting booted off Twitter after he was critical of NBC’s Olympics coverage. The journalist was reinstated on the short-messaging service Tuesday—but not before the blogosphere lit up with criticism over whether Twitter was curtailing free speech. Twitter apologized for what it said were its missteps in the incident.
Beyond that, two athletes have been kicked out of the Games for posting controversial statements on Twitter. At least one other athlete had been reprimanded for using social media to name their sponsors, in apparent violation of Olympics rules—and athletes have used Twitter to strike back, criticizing the IOC rules. British diver Tom Daley also warred on Twitter this week with a critic, who was later arrested on suspicion of malicious communication and revealed to be a British teenager.
At a London news conference Tuesday, IOC spokesman Mark Adams said the organization didn’t regret encouraging the use of social media during the Games—and probably couldn’t control social media if it tried.