The social media site is accusing several businesses and individuals of spreading spam and licensing spam tools aimed at Twitter users.
Twitter officials are suing companies they claim are among the largest spamming organizations, echoing strategies by tech vendors Microsoft and Facebook of taking such violators to court.
In a blog post April 5, Twitter officials said they were adding the threat of legal action to their growing arsenal of efforts to combat spam. In this case, the social media company said it was filing a lawsuit in San Francisco “against five of the most aggressive tool providers and spammers. With this suit, we’re going straight to the source. By shutting down tool providers, we will prevent other spammers from having these services at their disposal. Further, we hope the suit acts as a deterrent to other spammers, demonstrating the strength of our commitment to keep them off Twitter.”
Twitter is suing a Tennessee company called Skootle and its principal operator, James Kester, as well as JLA Web Solutions, a firm in the Philippines, and it operator, Jayson Yanuaria. In addition, the company is suing Justin Clark (doing business as TweetBuddy.com), and two individuals, James Lucero and Garland Harris.
In the 21-page complaint filed in U.S. District Court, Twitter officials argue that spamming operations are not only causing many users to opt out of Twitter, but also are forcing the company to spend a lot of money to combat spam, including creating a growing group—the Trust & Safety team—within Twitter assigned specifically to fight spam.
The company claims that it has had to spend at least $700,000 to combat the spamming operations of the defendants, including $300,000 against Clark’s TweetBuddy operation alone.
According to Twitter’s complaint, JLA Web Solutions, TweetBuddy and Skootle all create, use and license software that automates the creation of Twitter accounts and the sending of spam from those accounts. In addition, Lucero uses spam to lure Twitter users to a number of what Twitter calls “dubious Websites” that he runs. Harris is accused of operating or overseeing more than 129,000 spam Twitter accounts used to bring people to his Websites, which offer online auction and payments services of “questionable legitimacy,” Twitter said in the filing.
Twitter is asking the court to file injunctions against the defendants to stop them from running their businesses and to order the defendants to pay damages ranging from at least $75,000 to $300,000.
Company officials said they will continue to aggressively combat spam in several ways.
“While this [lawsuit] is an important step, our efforts to combat spam don’t stop here,” they wrote in their blot post. “Our engineering team continues to implement robust technical solutions that help us proactively reduce spam. For example, earlier this week, our engineers launched new anti-spam measures within Twitter to more aggressively suspend a new type of @ mention spam.”
However, the courts are becoming an increasingly important weapon in the battle against spam and other security threats. Facebook in January joined up with the state attorney general in Washington in filing lawsuits against Adscend Media, accusing the company of using Facebook to spread spam. Google and Craigslist also have taken legal action against online scammers.
In addition, Microsoft has used court actions in its efforts to shut down botnet operations such as Kelihos, Waledec and Rustock.