On April 5, 2012, social media giant Twitter, Inc. (“Twitter”) filed a civil lawsuit against spammers and makers of spamming software claiming violations of Twitter’s user agreement and various California state and common laws. Borrowing from the popular term for unsolicited email messages, Twitter’s complaint describes “spam” on Twitter as “a variety of abusive behaviors” including “posting a Tweet with a harmful link … and abusing the @reply and @mention functions to post unwanted messages to a user.” The suit alleges that certain defendants violated Twitter’s Terms of Service, which prohibit “spam and abuse,” by distributing software tools “designed to facilitate abuse of the Twitter platform and marketed to dupe customers into violating Twitter’s user agreement.” Other defendants allegedly operated large numbers of automated Twitter accounts through which they attempted to “trick Twitter users into clicking on links to illegitimate websites.”

According to the complaint, spamming by Skootle Corporation, JL4 Web Solutions and five individual defendants negatively affects Twitter users’ experience on the site, damages goodwill toward the company and leads to users terminating their Twitter accounts. In addition, Twitter claims that the defendants have forced the company to spend substantial sums of money on anti-spam efforts that have limited efficacy since the spammers generate replacement accounts that allow them to resume their spamming activities shortly after their spam accounts are terminated.

Twitter has asserted claims for breach of contract, tortious interference with contract, fraud, and unlawful, unfair and fraudulent business practices under California state law. Notably, the suit does not include claims for violations of electronic communications laws such as the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. The online communications platform is seeking injunctive relief and no less than $700,000 in monetary damages.

View the complaint (Twitter, Inc. v. Skootle Corp. et al, No. 3:2012cv01721 (N.D. Cal. filed Apr. 5, 2012)).