Twitter suspends London Olympics protesters

Twitter has bowed to pressure from the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games, or LOCOG, to shut down the Space Hijackers account.

The Space Hijackers describe themselves as an activist group which uses spoof and satire to ridicule authority and large corporations. They have previously targeted the world’s largest arms fair – DSEi – Nike, and are now looking at the Olympics.

It has declared itself the official protest group of the Olympics. On its website, the group has altered the official Olympics logo to display black and red, the traditional colours of anarchism. It seems like this attracted the ire of LOCOG, a committee which critics say has dedicated itself to serving the interest of the Olympics’ corporate sponsors.

The account holder received an email from Twitter staff that read: “We have received reports from the trademark holder, London organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Ltd., that your account, @spacehijackers, is using a trademark in a way that could be confusing or misleading with regard to a brand affiliation. Your account has been temporarily suspended due to violation of our trademark policy.

“The suspension is temporary,” the email continued. “If you have created a brand commentary, fan or news feed account, you will need to edit it to comply with Twitter’s best practices before your account is reactivated.”

The only conclusion to draw is that LOCOG has plans for its own official protesters. We expect the contract will go to G4S.

When LOCOG isn’t clamping down on knitting enthusiasts, it is acting as an enforcer for the big name brands involved in the Olympics. For example, only certain brands will be permitted in the entire designated Olympic area of East London, and advertising from rival brands is banned outright.  

The Hijackers list the reason they are protesting the Olympics on their website. In a statement, the Hijackers dismissed the accusations of trademark infringement. 

“We have to say we were surprised at the speed our account was taken down as it is clearly parody,” the Hijackers said, “and there is no chance of us being confused with the IOC or any other regulatory body. The fact that we are calling ourselves the ‘Official Protesters of London 2012 Olympics’ points to the parody at every stage”.

“Given that there is an official chocolate bar, an official junk food supplier, a never ending list, we felt someone had to step up to the mark and declare themselves the Official Protesters”.

The statement finished: “We were shocked and saddened that a company who so vociferously supported the Arab spring were so quick to curtail our freedom of speech when approached by a large corporate interest.

“This is not simply abut us making an anarchist Black and Red version of a logo, it’s about silencing all dissent around the Olympics in order to protect the brand recognition and sales opportunities of a few multinational companies. We feel the sport, the point of the games, has got completely lost under the weight of logos and corporate sponsorship”.

Twitter told TechEye that it does not comment on individual account suspensions. LOCOG was approached for comment, but at the time of publication, it hasn’t replied. 

*Update The Space Hijackers account is back. On its return, the group tweeted: “Please understand that your account is subject to permanent suspension if it is found to further violate our Rules regarding impersonation”.