The Olympics are on and as usual, there’s the fair amount of drama that accompanies them that interests us.
On Friday, this screengrab of an interesting response to the Pope’s message of goodwill to athletes taking part in the Rio Olympics was trending globally:
It was not for nothing. Even though it eventually turned out that the response was not from an official account or any account associated with the organizers, and was eventually taken down by Twitter, it had a point.
The Rule 40 in question is part of the guidelines that govern all marketing-related activities tied to the Olympics. This is so that only the approved official sponsors can capitalize on the publicity that the games draw worldwide every four years and lock out any brand that may not have splashed its advertising dollars but angling for a piece of the pie (the rules were earlier in the year amended to be more flexible). All well-intended.
Only that in 2016 there are more social media users than ever before in the games’ 120-year history. There are Vines today, Snapchats, Instagram videos, Facebook, Twitter and Whatsapp videos and they are all popular and part and parcel of modern culture’s information dissemination, traditional media channels be damned. But the Olympics’ organizers are having none of that. Thanks to complex global broadcast licensing deals, it is illegal for anyone outside the approved channels to share video from the games. Even animated GIFs are not welcome.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC), the body directly in-charge of organizing the Olympics has made that very clear not just to businesses but individuals as well, backward (and crazy) as you may think that sounds. Other sports bodies like England’s FA have had in place such tough regulations but haven’t had much success preventing GIFs and short videos of Premier League stars going viral online.
As a result, it is not so surprising that the IOC reached out to Twitter for help in taking down 7 videos uploaded to the microblogging site by a Venezuelan user. What is surprising, though, is the action that Twitter took: it shut down the entire account instead of just pulling the offending videos.
Luigino Bracci Roa (@Lubrio) woke up to find that his over 40,000 Twitter followers and 130,000+ tweets had just disappeared into thin air with no definite explanation from Twitter.
While it is very clear that brands and businesses on social media that are not official sponsors of the Olympics in Rio are tied when it comes to posting content on the same, individuals and news media are largely exempt from most of the ludicrous restrictions. For instance, while brands and businesses that are not official sponsors cannot use the hashtag #Rio2016 or something as basic as sharing results from an Olympic sporting event or even retweeting the official Olympics social media handles, individuals have much more leeway.
The former (for now) @Lubrio does dispute [translated] his use of the Olympic videos on Twitter (he argues, on his blog, that posting the videos which were recordings of a broadcast from Venezuela’s national broadcaster does not constitute a copyright infringement in the South American nation) but we all know that was a stretch. What we don’t know, yet, is why Twitter had to suspend his account other than just taking down the offending material the IOC had flagged.
Twitter’s own “rules” and copyright policy are a bit complicated and framed in such a way that the company can interpret them in various ways and the end result may be like what befell @Lubrio: permanent suspension from the service. Be careful for the one month that the whole world’s eyes will be on Rio de Janeiro. This could be you if you distribute Olympics content without the IOC’s authorization.