Judge Greenlights Twitter's Spam Lawsuit

by , Jun 27, 2012, 6:41 PM
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In a victory for Twitter, a federal judge has ruled that the microblogging service can proceed with a lawsuit against Garland Harris, one of several people sued this spring for allegedly spamming users.

Harris allegedly operated automated Twitter accounts aimed at duping people into clicking on questionable links. Harris created more than 129,000 Twitter accounts that broadcast links to sites like troptiontrading.com, which offers "online auction and online payment services of questionable legitimacy," according to Twitter.

U.S. District Court Judge Susan Illston in San Francisco rejected Harris' argument that any messages he allegedly sent to Twitter users don't meet the federal law's definition of spam. The 2003 CAN-SPAM law talks about electronic mail, but doesn't necessarily cover messages sent through services like Twitter.

But Illston ruled that questions about whether CAN-SPAM extends to platforms like Twitter are irrelevant because the company alleges only that Harris violated the company's terms of service.

"The complaint does not concern that Act [CAN-SPAM] but a breach of the TOS [terms of service] contract, which defines 'spam' for the purposes of the agreement," Illston wrote in a decision rejecting Harris's bid to dismiss the lawsuit before trial.

Harris, who resides in West Palm Beach, Fla., also contended that the lawsuit doesn't belong in California. Illston rejected that argument as well, writing that Twitter's terms of service provide that all disputes will be litigated in San Francisco.

The dispute dates to April, when Twitter filed suit against several alleged "spammers." One of the defendants, Justin Clark, quietly settled the case two weeks ago, according to court documents.

Clark, who allegedly owned company TweetBuddy.com, agreed to follow an injunction prohibiting it from creating Twitter accounts for the purpose of violating the company's terms of service. TweetBuddy.com allegedly distributed software "designed to facilitate abuse" of the Twitter platform, according to the complaint filed by Twitter.

Other settlement terms are confidential.

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