Audit Notes: Twitter’s censors, NYT apology, Craigslist’s aggregators

Twitter gave itself a serious black eye today, censoring a journalist for reporting the easy-to-figure-out corporate email address of NBC Universal’s top Olympics executive.

The Independent’s LA bureau chief Guy Adams tweeted this today as part of his coverage of complaints about NBC’s Olympics coverage:

“The man responsible for NBC pretending the Olympics haven’t started yet is Gary Zenkel. Tell him what u think! Email:”

The network complained to Twitter, which has a business relationship with Zenkel and NBC, one “Twitter hopes to use the Olympics as a launch pad into a more sustainable business,” The Wall Street Journal reported last week. Twitter subsequently removed Adams’s account, which is sort of like a newspaper firing a critic of a big advertiser—only modern media companies can’t “fire” reporters because they don’t employ any)

It’s a reminder that an increasingly critical means of communication is in the hands of a single corporation.

— Citigroup creator Sandy Weill now says his baby should be broken up and that all investment banking should be separated from retail and commercial banking. In other words, a return to Glass-Steagall, which Weill played a critical role in gutting and overturning. Citigroup’s co-founder, John Reed, came to this conclusion three years ago and apologized for his role in the mess.

It should be a huge deal, but it surely won’t. There’s just north of zero chance of something like that happening until the next financial crisis.

But Weill’s about-face did trigger another head-turning apology: from The New York Times editorial board :

While we are on this subject, add The New York Times editorial page to the list of the converted. We forcefully advocated the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act. “Few economic historians now find the logic behind Glass-Steagall persuasive,” one editorial said in 1988. Another, in 1990, said that the notion that “banks and stocks were a dangerous mixture” “makes little sense now.”

That year, we also said that the Glass-Steagall Act was one of two laws that “stifle commercial banks.” The other was the McFadden-Douglas Act, which prevented banks from opening branches across the nation.

Having seen the results of this sweeping deregulation, we now think we were wrong to have supported it.

— The Times’s Nick Bilton looks at how Craigslist fights off third-party aggregators who try to offer services the site itself won’t.

Last week the company sued a third-party service that mapped its real estate listings, which have become increasingly unusable.

This isn’t the first time Craigslist has claimed such violations. The Internet is littered with digital carcasses that once built on top of the listings site. Their pixelated tombstones are inscribed with one-liners that Craigslist killed access without any notice, or they were sent a cease-and-desist letter by Perkins Coie, a top corporate law firm that frequently represents Craigslist.

One, a site called Craigs Little Buddy, could search multiple Craigslist cities at once — a simple feature that Craigslist doesn’t offer. Another site, Craigsly, helped people set up e-mail alerts when a certain type of listing, like a specific car or apartment for sale, was posted in their area. Another, Ziink Craigslist Helper, which offered a free browser plug-in that made navigating listings easier, was also shut down by Craigslist lawyers.

Most of the sites that Craigslist killed began as hobby projects, making little to no money — just programmers trying to improve a product they loved.

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum. Tags: , , , ,