The hair-trigger nature of social media sites is once again causing problems for high-profile users, with the ex-head of Google China forced to apologise for publishing the personal details of US Olympic swimming coach John Leonard online.
Kaifu Lee – one of the most-followed users on mainland China’s Twitter equivalent, Sina Weibo – was incensed after Leonard cast aspersions on the legality of Chinese Olympian Ye Shiwen’s record-breaking stint in the 400m medley on Saturday. As well as revealing Leonard’s home and work addresses, phone numbers and an email address, Lee urged his followers to contact the coach to complain about the allegations. His call to arms was redistributed more than 14,000 times before he deleted it.
Lee has now apologised for the action, but reiterated his support for Ye Shiwen.
The story comes hot on the heels of a similar slip-up by Independent journalist Guy Adams, who had his account briefly suspended by Twitter after he published the email address of NBC’s Olympic President Gary Zenkel, in an effort to encourage his followers to complain about that channel’s coverage of the Olympic opening ceremony.
Adams has since had his account reactivated. His case differs from Lee’s in that the address he supplied was Zenkel’s workplace, and freely available for anyone to find on the internet. However, in the wake of Rio Ferdinand’s FA charge for improper conduct after his response to an allegedly racist tweet, both events merely reiterate the dangers involved in using these sites: ill-thought out messages sent in haste risk widespread repurcussions.