Twitter in legal spat over data clampdown

Fri Nov 30, 2012 2:35pm EST
 
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By Gerry Shih

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Twitter Inc's steadily tightening grip over the 140-character messages on its network has set off a spirited debate in Silicon Valley over whether a social media company should or should not lay claim over its user-generated content.

That debate has now landed in court.

A San Francisco judge on Wednesday granted a temporary restraining order compelling Twitter to continue providing access to its "Firehose" - the full daily stream of some 400 million tweets - to PeopleBrowsr Inc, a data analytics firm that sifts through Twitter and resells that information to clients ranging from technology blogs to the U.S. Department of Defense.

As part of a broader revenue-generating strategy, Twitter in recent months has begun clamping down on how its data stream may be accessed, to the dismay of many third-party developers who have built businesses and products off of Twitter's Firehose.

PeopleBrowsr, which began contracting Firehose access in July 2010, has continued to buy Twitter data on a month-to-month basis until this July, when Twitter invoked a clause in the agreement that allowed for terminating the contract without cause.

The court's decision to extend the two San Francisco-based companies' contract has not settled the legal spat; a judge will hear PeopleBrowsr's arguments for a preliminary injunction against Twitter on January 8.

But the case could provide the first, in-depth look at issues surrounding one of the Internet industry's most prominent players in Twitter.

In a court filing, PeopleBrowsr founder John David Rich argued the Twitter move was a "commercial disaster" for his business and contradicted the spirit of repeated public statements that Twitter has made regarding its data.   Continued...

 
A Twitter page shows an entry from European Council President Herman Van Rompuy in Brussels March 11, 2011. REUTERS/Yves Herman