The Virgin Media Twitter account saga

I was finally able to access the Gmail account that I used for my @virginmedia Twitter profile that Virgin Media ‘stole’ from me earlier this month. I now know that I received only one email from Twitter on the subject. There was no opportunity to change the name myself, or to fight my position. They also stripped the avatar, background image and bio (presumably because these reinforced the ‘impersonation’), leaving me with @notvirginmedia. I’ve copied the email from Twitter below.

Hi There,

We’ve received a complaint from Virgin Media, UK. It has come to our attention that your Twitter account:

http://twitter.com/virginmedia

is in violation of our basic Terms of Service, specifically article 4 which mentions impersonation:

  1. You must not abuse, harass, threaten, impersonate or intimidate other Twitter users.

In this case “impersonation” is the issue. Impersonation is against our terms of service unless it’s parody. The standard for defining parody is, “Would a reasonable person be aware that it’s a joke.”

To settle this issue we’ve changed the user name to “notvirginmedia” in the full name and username fields in order to eliminate confusion. You can change your real and user names to something else if you’d like:

  1. Visit Twitter.com/settings
  2. Edit the Full Name and Username fields
  3. Click “Save”

but please honor Twitterʼs Terms of Service accordingly. We appreciate your cooperation in this matter.

Thanks,

Twitter Support

However you define parody or impersonation in legal terms, I’d imagine my Twitter profile was in a pretty grey area. I had copied the branding and used their company name, but the bio line (‘We’re Virgin Media, you’re just a customer’) and the tweeted content was pretty clearly parody and not produced or endorsed by Virgin Media.

I have reconfigured Twitterfeed and tweaked the design of the page to make it a clearer parody. I’m not interested in fighting this in any way, but I think a lot less of Twitter as a result.

One unexpected angle on all this is the Virgin Media Twitter profile itself. Although they only have five updates, despite launching a major new service, the are at least @ replying to some users. Hopefully they will use Twitter as a positive force. I originally set up the account out of frustration through shitty service. Twitter is an excellent way to provide a small amount of technical support (that you don’t have to pay for!) or to provide service level updates, etc.

Let’s hope they use it for good!

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