Data Analyzer Wins Round Against Twitter

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – PeopleBrowsr won a temporary restraining order against Twitter, allowing it to keep full access to Twitter’s vast amount of data for the time being.
     PeopleBrowsr, a social analytics service, sued Twitter on Nov. 27 in Superior Court. It claimed Twitter was threatening to restrict its access to its stream of data and tweets, to eliminate competition and become dominant in the “Twitter Big Data Analytics” market.
     Twitter removed the complaint to Federal Court on Monday, saying that PeopleBrowsr’s claim arises under federal antitrust law.
     Twitter’s more than 140 million users collectively post an average of 340 million tweets per day.
     PeopleBrowsr said in its complaint that it pays Twitter more than $1 million a year to have access to “every single tweet posted on Twitter through what is referred to as the Twitter ‘Firehose.'”
     PeopleBrowsr built a business in the “Twitter Big Data Analytics” market, looking for meaningful observations by sifting through Twitter data from the Firehose and sell the analyses, according to the complaint.
     PeopleBrowsr “provides organizations deep insight regarding consumers’ reactions to products and services as well as the Twitter users who have the most influence in certain locations or communities. This type of information is highly valuable, and PeopleBrowsr has contracts for the development and sale of its products and services with customers including Fortune 500 companies and government entities, such as the Department of Defense,” the complaint states.
     PeopleBrowsr claims it uses Twitter’s Firehose to “(a) identify communities of people with similar interests; (b) identify leaders who have the ability to spread a message or to influence others to take action; (c) track the reaction of users and communities to messages and brands; and (d) provide its users with a unique visual stream of Twitter data that enables them to learn about influential people with similar interests.”
     PeopleBrowsr claims that without a valid business justification or explanation, Twitter threatened to cut off its access to the Firehose as of Nov. 30, which would have ruined PeopleBrowsr’s business and cleared the way for Twitter to dominate the Twitter Big Data Analytics market.
     “When entering into its business relationship with Twitter, PeopleBrowsr reasonably expected that it was buying into an open ecosystem, and that its access to the Firehose would not be cut off to allow Twitter to usurp its business opportunities,” the complaint states.
     PeopleBrowsr claims that the two companies spent months in meetings “in which Twitter extracted sensitive, confidential information regarding PeopleBrowsr’s technology and business prospects by stating that disclosure of this information was necessary to justify PeopleBrowsr’s continued access to the Firehose.”
     “Twitter intends to cut off PeopleBrowsr’s Firehose access so that it can take PeopleBrowsr’s business opportunities and restrain competition in the Twitter Big Data Analytics market in which People Browsr participates,” the complaint states.
     Without full access to all of Twitter’s data, PeopleBrowsr says, it cannot provide the products and services expected by its contracting partners and business prospects.
     “Though Twitter has suggested that PeopleBrowsr could offer services by merely sampling Twitter’s data, it is not possible to provide the high quality, sophisticated, Twitter Big Data Analytics PeopleBrowsr’s clients expect in that manner. The full Firehose is necessary for key PeopleBrowsr innovations, such as measuring influence in communities, that differentiate it from less sophisticated data analytics providers,” the complaint states.
     PeopleBrowsr alleges intentional interference with contractual relations, intentional interference with prospective economic advantage, promissory estoppel, and unfair competition.
     It seeks a permanent injunction to prevent Twitter from terminating or suspending its access to Twitter’s full data feed.
     PeopleBrowsr is represented by Michael Kahn with Crowell & Moring.

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