Mea culpa: We reported here previously that Twitter had yanked TechCrunch from its list of suggested users, apparently retaliation for publishing hacker-obtained internal Twitter docs. Not true. Details of my dumb error after the jump.
In short, I follow TechCrunch on Twitter, so it does not show up in my list of suggested users. I did do some digging prior to my post to find out if everyone was presented with the same Suggested User List, and even confirmed with someone else that the user was not on that person's list, but obviously should have dug deeper in fact checking.
Original, now retracted story here:
Twitter's Suggested User List has been controversial lately, since it's tremendously valuable yet tremendously mysterious. Well, the microblogging startup just cleared up one thing: Cross Twitter, and you're off the list.
As of just yesterday, TechCrunch was on the so-called SUL, and founder Mike Arrington has blogged that the list position can generate 10,000 new signups a day. Fellow entrepreneur Jason Calacanis has even offered Twitter $250,000 for a slot.
TechCrunch is now off the list, one day after very controversially publishing internal Twitter documents it obtained from a computer hacker. Twitter originally said its list was determined by factors like whether an account has "fairly wide or mainstream appeal," but yesterday the startup hinted in a blog post that TechCrunch, whose appeal is well documented, might have made itself an exception:
...publishing these documents publicly could jeopardize relationships with Twitter's ongoing and potential partners.
There's no question that Arrington's ethics — and TechCrunch's integrity, by extension — were widely attacked outside of Twitter yesterday. Posts calling him "a very sad excuse for a man" and "SCUM" set the tone.
But by apparently wielding its star-making list as a weapon, Twitter just makes it a bigger point of discussion. Disaffected early adopters have been grumbling for months; one, blogging pioneer Dave Winer, predicted the Arrington situation back in March:
I do think the company should have done this much more carefully... And the people who got the push have a problem if they are members of the press, because this gift they got from Twitter is worth money... What if a reporter were critical of Twitter in a piece she wrote, would Twitter revoke her status?
For all its technical deficiencies, Twitter ended up scoring a PR victory from its hack attack, because it looked to many like the victim of an overeager publisher. Now it risks snatching defeat from the jaws of that victory, by looking like a bully. It's apparently a risk the company is willing to take; Arrington does have a remarkable talent for infuriating people like that.