Tech

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Some fans and athletes have abused the power of social media with racist or offensive tweets, but others have been denied access to that power in the first place, writes Gordon MacMillan.

So much has already been written about how the London 2012 Games were the first 'social Olympics'. The phrase, with its implied human interactions, seems to capture some of the energy that sits at the heart of world's greatest sporting event.

The London Games, still far from over as we prepare to head into the Paralympics, have certainly proven to be the social Olympics that were promised, although they have been much more than that. They have acted as a testing ground for social media and given us the chance to see how it works on the biggest of canvases.

While there has been so much to praise and enjoy, from the speed of results on Twitter to wonderful pictures across the social web, there have also been several instances where various aspects of social have been found wanting, where it is not working or systems have failed completely.

First we had athletes tweeting abusive comments, with Greek triple jumper Voula Papachristou expelled from the Games for sending a racist tweet. Next came Swiss footballer Michel Morganella, who was sent home for one insulting South Koreans.

Both had taken to Twitter, used the platform it gave them, abused that platform and paid the price.

Next up came @Rileyy_69, who sent a series of upsetting tweets to British athlete Tom Daley after he came fourth in the men's synchronised 10m diving competition. The teenage tweeter was quickly traced and arrested by Dorset police. For a time it looked like we could be looking at another Twitter Joke Trial, but the police opted to caution @Rileyy_69 and the world moved on.

Independent journalist Guy Adams ill-advisedly tweeted the work email address of an NBC executive as the US broadcaster struggled under a weight of criticism of its Olympics coverage. Twitter, like the police, overreacted, suspending Adams' account. It was later reinstated and the episode appears to have been a storm in a tea cup, even if there was blame on both sides. …