California, Cyberlaw, Junk Email / Spam, Litigators, Social Media, Social Networking Websites, Technology, Twittering

What’s in a Name? That Which We Call Spam…

Back in April, we began covering Twitter’s aggressive litigation against alleged online spammers. The company’s decision to initiate the case made waves, as Twitter declared it was going “straight to the source” of those who provided tools to spam Twitter and worsen its users’ experiences on the site.

In the months since, the case has taken a couple interesting turns. And one of the defendants won’t go down without a fight…

The products involved in the case, with goofy names like TweetAttacks, TweetAdder, and TweetBuddy, were all sued together. At this point almost all of them have either agreed to settle or were voluntarily dismissed from the case. Just one defendant, Skootle, the company that developed TweetAdder, has continued vehemently fighting the emerging social media giant’s allegations.

We’ve covered Skootle’s strategy before (disclosure: the company is represented by Above the Law columnist Tom Wallerstein’s firm). Last week, Skootle won an interesting victory against Twitter, getting a ruling severing it from the few remaining defendants.

Here is how Skootle argued its case:

Thus, Twitter claims that [co-defendant Garland] Harris, and users of TweetAdder, separately breached the TOS by performing separate acts. Indeed, Twitter even identifies Skootle and Harris differently, as “Spamware” and “Spammer” defendants, respectively…

Twitter makes no attempt to show any relationship between Skootle and Harris. Twitter does not allege that Skootle and Harris acted jointly or in concert. Nor can it. The claims against Skootle and Harris involve very different alleged behavior and different software products.

Twitter had argued it was “discussing resolution” with Harris, and that TweetAdder “appear to be the only Defendants who are openly continuing their unlawful conduct,” so the joinder issue would be moot.

Last week’s order to sever was not particularly sympathetic to Twitter. And now it’s just Skootle and Twitter, mano a mono.

The complaint is devoid of any factual allegations connecting the activities of Harris to the alleged activities of Skootle/Kester. The complaint is likewise devoid of any factual allegations connecting the harm Twitter suffered due to the Harris’ alleged activities and the harm Twitter suffered due to Skootle/Kester’s activities.

It will doubtless be days and days before the case gets resolved, and it looks like Skootle is digging in its heels. It takes balls to go up against a company like Twitter, which carries major clout (or Klout, if you’re into that).

To be fair, it’s not like Twitter has become a huge faceless corporation. Just about an hour ago, Twitter’s general counsel, Alexander Macgillivray, apologized via a blog post and a tweet (of course) for the way the company handled the Guy Adams account suspension kerfuffle that unfolded over the last few days. (And Twitter’s offices are down the street from my favorite ghetto downmarket Vietnamese restaurant, which was tragically shut down for health violations last week.)

In any case, this Twitter war is far from over. And it looks like Skootle doesn’t plan on skedaddling any time soon.

Twitter, Inc. v. Skootle Corp.: Order Severing Defendant for Misjoinder [U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California]
Skootle and Kester’s Reply to Twitter’s Response to Order to Show Cause [U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California]
Plaintiff’s Response to Order to Show Cause [U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California]

Earlier: Alleged Spammers Respond to Twitter Lawsuit: We Are Not the Spammers You’re Looking For
Twitter to Spammers: You Are SO Sued!

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