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Tuesday, July 23, 2024 | Back issues
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Twitter Says Spammers Cost It Big Bucks

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - Twitter claims in court that Tennessee- and Philippines-based companies, including Skootle, chased away its subscribers and saddled it with $700,000 in anti-spamming expenses.

Twitter claims Skootle Corp., JL4 Web Solutions, Tweetbuddy.com and five people created serial Twitter accounts, tweeted misleading links and promoted third-party software in violation of Twitter's terms of service, which "expressly prohibit spamming."

In its federal complaint, Twitter claims that Tennessee-based Skootle, operator of TweetAdder software, enabled users to create multiple Twitter accounts and broadcast spam tweets, and failed to warn that it violated Twitter's service agreement.

"In recent months, Twitter has received scores of complaints about myriad spam accounts that use the TweetAttacks software," the complaint states.

"Spam and abuse" rules prohibit Twitter subscribers from following a large number of users in a short time, posting the same tweet across multiple accounts, creating or purchasing multiple accounts to gain followers, tweeting misleading links, and "using or promoting third-party links that claim to generate more followers for an account, including 'sites promising "more followers fast," or any other site that offers to automatically add followers to your account,'" according to the complaint.

Defendant JL4, incorporated in the Philippines, also allows users to broadcast spam tweets in three versions of its software, TweetAttacks, Twitter says.

"[JL4] advertises that TweetAttacks Pro allows a user to post tweets and re-tweets through 'thousands of accounts,' simultaneously," the complaint states. "TweetAttacks also asserted that it offers '[m]ore options to protect your accounts from getting banned.' ...

"These features and representations, among others, have induced Twitter users who license TweetAttacks to violate the TOS [terms of service], and deceived consumers through deceptive advertising," according to the complaint.

JL4 modified its website in March and discontinued TweetAttacks for download, but continued to serve certain customers, Twitter says.

Defendant Justin Clark enabled similar spamming via his software, TweetBuddy, according to the complaint. And, Twitter says, defendant Garland Harris operates more than 129,000 Twitter accounts linked to his online auction and online payment services.

"Spammers and the makers of spam software, including the defendants in this action, harm Twitter by negatively affecting Twitter users' experience, damaging users' goodwill toward Twitter, and causing Twitter users to terminate their Twitter accounts due to dissatisfaction with the level of spam on Twitter," the complaint states.

Twitter, self-described as "one of the world's most popular online communications platforms, with over 140 million active users," claims it spent $700,000 on anti-spamming efforts against the defendants , including $300,000 against Clark's TweetBuddy, $150,000 against JL4, and $75,000 against Skootle.

Also named as defendants are James Kester, Jason Yanuaria, and James Lucero.

Twitter seeks an injunction prohibiting the defendants from using its service, and damages for fraud, breach of contract and unfair business practices.

It is represented by David Kramer with Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, of Palo Alto.

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