Twitter's Lawsuits Against Spam Tool Providers Could Easily Backfire
from the risky dept
I recognize how tempting it is to go after the tools providers over spam. But just as we don't blame Twitter or Craigslist for how users use (or abuse) their system, those companies shouldn't blame tools providers for the actions of their users either. At the very least, I could see it coming back (in a big, bad way) to haunt Twitter, by giving opponents in lawsuits the ability to point to Twitter's own claims against these tool providers to suggest that it, too, should be liable for the actions of its users. From the details (embedded below), it appears that Twitter is arguing that all users breached the terms of service -- and it carefully notes that each of the software providers have registered accounts -- meaning they agreed to the terms at some point. I understand why it's being argued this way, but I'm not sure it makes sense. The terms apply to that account, not everything that someone with an account does outside of the account. Twitter also claims that the spamware providers are involved in tortious interference with a contract as well as fraud and "unlaweful, unfair and fraudulent business practices" under California law.
To its credit, Twitter does not go as far as Craigslist did in its anti-spam lawsuits -- which actually tried to use copyright and trademark law, as well as claiming that violations of terms of service are a violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Thankfully, Twitter avoids going down those paths where those very specific laws might come back to haunt it -- and sticking with slightly more defensible claims.
While I'm incredibly sympathetic towards Twitter's position here, and the goal of stomping out spammers, I still find it troubling in a few ways. Twitter can and should (absolutely) look at ways to kill spammer accounts and to block spamming tools through technological means. It's when things go legal that it could get tricky. While my heart wants them to win -- I still fear that the arguments that the service provider itself is guilty because their tools are used for spamming floats a little too close to arguments about whether or not Twitter is responsible for how its users use Twitter.