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Inside Twitter’s Spam Lawsuit: Fighting Five Defendants Cost More Than $700,000
Twitter’s costs in fighting the spam created by five defendants it’s suing are more than $700,000 — and that may be a conservative underestimate. The company is seeking full restitution of those costs and other damages, along with an injunction forcing each defendant to stop its activities, as it seeks a jury trial in a San Francisco federal court.
We wrote yesterday about Twitter’s lawsuit against the five alleged spammers and, now that the filing is available (PDF download), more details are known about Twitter’s case.
Two Types of Defendants
The lawsuit separates the five defendants into two categories:
“Spamware Defendants” are those that, according to the suit, “distribute software tools designed to facilitate abuse of the Twitter platform and marketed to dupe consumers into violating Twitter’s user agreement.” Twitter places TweetAttacks, TweetAdder and TweetBuddy in this group.
“Spammer Defendants” are those that, according to the suit, “operate large numbers of automated Twitter accounts through which they attempt to trick Twitter users into clicking on links to illegitimate websites, again in violation of Twitter’s user agreement.” Twitter identifies defendants James Lucero and Garland E. Harris as being in this group.
Twitter’s Anti-Spam Costs Detailed
The lawsuit goes on to explain that Twitter has “dramatically expanded” its Trust & Safety team in the past year — that’s Twitter anti-spam/anti-fraud group — and that team has responded to “dozens of appeals” from suspended users of the defendants’ products.
Twitter also says that it spent “substantial amounts” of money in the past year fighting spam. The suit details how much Twitter has spent fighting each of the five defendants:
- “at least $100,000” spent on anti-spam efforts against Lucero
- “at least $75,000” against Harris
- “at least $75,000” against TweetAdder
- “at least $300,000” against TweetBuddy
- “at least $150,000” against TweetAttacks
If those are underestimates — totaling “at least” $700,000 — it’s not unreasonable to think that Twitter’s costs in dealing with these five defendants may have approached a million dollars.
TweetAttacks: As mentioned in yesterday’s article, TweetAttacks’ website indicates that its software is no longer available. In its lawsuit, Twitter says that happened in late March “in response to actions by Twitter.” The lawsuit also claims that TweetAttacks “continues to support certain customers.”
TweetBuddy: In addition to its complaint against TweetBuddy’s automation software, the lawsuit also claims that TweetBuddy offered Twitter accounts for sale on its website. (That’s a violation of Twitter’s Terms of Service.)
James Lucero: Twitter accuses Lucero — one of the “Spammer Defendants” — of sending out a “high volume of misleading Tweets” that claim to teach the recipient how to get Justin Bieber to follow the recipient’s account; the links in such tweets lead the recipient to Lucero’s “spam websites, which do not deliver the promised information.” Twitter says it has terminated “numerous” accounts that Lucero has used.
Garland E. Harris: Likewise, Twitter’s lawsuit says the company has terminated “numerous accounts” run by Harris. The suit says Harris currently has more than 129,000 “automated spam Twitter accounts” that he uses to spam recipients with links to his websites that offer “online auction and online payment services of questionable legitimacy.”
The lawsuit accuses the defendants of breach of contract, tortious interference with contract, fraud and violating California state business practices.
Twitter is seeking unspecified monetary damages from each defendant (but at a minimum of the costs mentioned above), along with an injunction forcing them to stop what they’re doing.
The lawsuit says the defendants have harmed Twitter by negatively affecting the user experience, damaging users’ goodwill toward Twitter and causing Twitter users to close their accounts due to the amount of spam. It also says the defendants’ actions have caused Twitter to lose existing and prospective business relationships.
As far as we know, no date has been set yet for the case to begin.