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November 30, 2012

Twitter's Going to Court

By Brittany Walters-Bearden, TMCnet Contributor

Twitter (News - Alert), Incorporated has had a recent run-in with the legal system…and lost. PeopleBrowsr, Incorporated, one of the largest data analytics companies in the US, is relying on information obtained through a system called a Firehose to gather information for its clients, and they're not too happy with Twitter's recent changes.

The Twitter Firehose is the daily stream of tweets that generally amount to a daily total of more than 400 million. PeopleBrowsr has paid to access this Firehose to gather information from the tweets, which they sell to their many clients.

Twitter, who in a new concept to make more money, decided that it was going to change the amount of access outside companies could have to its Firehose. On the other hand, PeopleBrowsr and other information-gathering companies alike have developed their business and success around having complete access to Twitter’s Firehose. Needless to say, this new modification could devastate their company’s well-being. 

In light of this, PeopleBrowsr took this issue to court and has had a temporary restraining order placed on Twitter to prevent them from limiting the amount of information that can be gathered from the Firehose and the tweets found on it.

Image via Shutterstock

PeopleBrowsr provides information for a vast amount of industries, including advertising companies, airlines, automotive industry, technology companies, entertainment, retail outlets and software developers. The company also provides information to government groups, public relations companies and advertising agencies to help them decide on effective marketing strategies for consumers or targeted groups. Further, it helped developed Kred, a company that uses the data from PeopleBrowsr to determine the relevance of Twitter users outreach and influence.

Though a San Francisco judge has issued a temporary injunction, the two groups will return to court in January to see if Twitter has the right to enforce a clause in its user agreement that says they can terminate a contract without cause at their discretion. Founder of PeopleBrowsr, John David Rich, says that if Twitter is allowed to restrict their information that it will cripple his company. Twitter, he says, has made consistent promises that it will maintain an “open ecosystem” for its data.

Twitter lawyers only responded with, “This is Contracts 101.We believe the case is without merit and will vigorously defend against it."

Edited by Allison Boccamazzo
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