Want to get banned from Twitter? Post a GIF from the Rio Olympics.
Jim Weber, a contributor to Athlon Sports, had his account banned from Twitter on Saturday after publishing a GIF of Olympian Aly Raisman’s floor routine. While trying to send out a subsequent tweet days after publishing the GIF, he was informed that his account had been suspended due to a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
“I had read that the [International Olympic Committee] was banning the press from using GIFs but I didn’t see how that applied to me,” he wrote on LinkedIn. “Sure, I didn’t have the rights to any footage at the Olympics — just like countless blogs and users don’t have rights to the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, and NCAA footage that they create GIFs out of and profit from every day. But I figured the worst thing that would happen is the GIF would be deleted from my account, as Twitter often does in these situations. Boy was I wrong.”
Weber says Twitter sent him an email informing him that publishing the beginning of Raisman’s floor routine prompted the suspension. It was accompanied by a letter from the IOC’s director of legal affairs, Howard Stupp, who said Weber had published the content without authorization from the Olympic committee. Stupp said Weber had 10 minutes to confirm that he had removed the offending content, but Twitter blocked his account within three minutes.
“I understand Twitter is cozying up to organizations like the IOC as the platform tries to turn sports live streaming into a major part of its offering and demonstrate that if an organization like the IOC says, ‘Jump,’ Twitter will reply ‘How high?'” he said. “But it’s disappointing that Twitter will throw users under the bus to do it by permanently banning the very users that built Twitter into the vibrant community it is today.”
Weber contacted Twitter Support “at least 10 times” to discuss the issue, to no avail. But a little press attention helped move things along.
“After this story picked up enough steam, my permanent Twitter suspension was coincidentally lifted,” he wrote in an update. “Funny how that works.”
Weber published another correspondence from Twitter, which said that while it had “unsuspended” his account, it had “received multiple copyright infringment notifications” against his Twitter account and added that he could be at risk of another suspension. In his post, Weber said he also tweeted GIFs of a Japanese wrestler celebrating with her coach and a Chinese diver during the games, but did not say if those were the notifications to which Twitter was referring.
“You may be able to bring your account back into good standing by seeking retractions or sending us counter-notifications to the takedown requests you have received,” Twitter wrote.
“I’m hesitant to post anything to social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat with the knowledge that they can and will permanently shut down your account with the snap of their fingers,” Weber wrote. “Because as idealistic as social media platforms make themselves sound, at the end of the day, they’re just like every other business: They only thing they have to answer to is money.”
Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.