The social media network hummed with the indignation of thousands of its users after the Twitter feed of Guy Adams of the Independent disappeared. The paper's deputy editor, Archie Bland, confirmed the suspension, calling it "heavy-handed".
Rachael Horwitz, a spokeswoman for the San Francisco-based firm, confirmed that it does not "actively monitor" users' accounts, and added that it was company policy not to comment on individual users.
NBC acted after Adams published a tweet that included the email address of Gary Zenkel, the president of NBC Olympics, encouraging people to complain to him about the TV network's delayed broadcast of the opening ceremony of the Games.
Twitter's terms and conditions state that users must not post private email addresses, unless they are already available on the internet. Adams said the email was not a private one but a corporate account, and that Zenkel's address is identical in form to thousands of other NBC employees.
The offending tweet was not the only one critical of NBC. Some of Adams's comments fall in the camp of caustic criticism:
"America's left coast forced to watch Olympic ceremony on SIX HOUR time delay. Disgusting money-grabbing by @NBColympics"
And some arguably went further than that:
"I have 1000 channels on my TV. Not one will be showing the Olympics opening ceremony live. Because NBC are utter, utter bastards."
In a piece published by the Independent the reporter said that NBC's decision to delay transmission of the Games so that it could maximise its advertising revenue in primetime had sparked "ridicule from TV critics and outrage from the US public".
He also pointed out the timing of the suspension, which came very soon after a sharply-critical piece by Adams on NBC's coverage of the Olympics opening ceremony was published.
The headline on the piece said "all the talk is about #NBCfail". Adams also referenced several gaffes and insensitive remarks by NBC commentators, including the memorable remark that they "haven't heard" of Tim Berners-Lee, the British inventor of the world wide web.
Suspicions that Twitter had over-reached itself and strayed into censorship were heightened by the fact that the firm has entered into a deal with NBCUniversal in which Twitter becomes the official narrator of live events at the Olympics.
Among the sharply-worded tweets coming from Adams were:
"Am I alone in wondering why NBColympics think its acceptable to
pretend this road race is being broadcast live?"
and: "Matt Lauer: 'Madagascar, a location indelibly associated with a couple of recent animated movies.' #tosspot"
Twitter users rallied to the defence of Adams. This from the Scottish novelist Irvine Welsh was typical:
The Guy Adams twitter ban illustrates three tendencies of hegemonic power; 1) hates criticism, 2) takes itself seriously 3) no sense of fun.
— Irvine Welsh (@WelshIrvine) July 30, 2012
— Gideons Way (@Gideons_Way) July 30, 2012
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image: © West McGowan