Twitter Files Lawsuit To Combat Spam
April 6, 2012

Twitter Files Lawsuit To Combat Spam

As Twitter grows at a record pace, so does the threat of spam; and to combat this out-of-control problem, the social microblogging service filed a lawsuit Thursday morning against the biggest perpetrators of Twitter spam.

Twitter has been fighting spammers tooth-and-nail for some time, and has beefed up its security to try and stop the offenders in their tracks. But the problem persists, and with Twitter´s exploding growth in popularity, its seems spam is growing as well.

The lawsuit, filed in a San Francisco federal court yesterday (April 5), is attacking companies that create tools to automate posting to and following people on Twitter. Twitter is specifically targeting the five most-used tools that make Twitter spam possible.

TweetAttacks, TweetAdder, TweetBuddy, James Lucero and Garland Harris are the five biggest, baddest offenders of Twitter spam, the company said in its lawsuit, arguing they are the arms dealers to those who fill the service with fake profiles and unwanted @ messages.

“The defendants were in clear violation of the Twitter Rules,” the microblogging site told VentureBeat in an emailed statement. “Taking legal action sends a clear message to all would-be spammers that there are serious and costly consequences to violating our Rules with their annoying and potentially malicious activity. We´ve focused on tool providers; they have willfully created tools that enable others to propagate spam on Twitter.”

“By shutting down tool providers, we will prevent other spammers from having these services at their disposal. Further, we hope the suit acts as a deterrent to other spammers, demonstrating the strength of our commitment to keep them off Twitter,” said Twitter.

This isn´t the first time a tech company has gone after spammers. Facebook is among a list of major Internet companies that have filed similar lawsuits. The No.1 social network filed two lawsuits against Adscend Media for allegedly spreading Facebook spam through deceptive practices (clickjacking). And Google has sued in similar situations involving online pharmacy scams.

Classified ad network Craigslist, is one company that had success in fighting spammers. It sued spammers of its website in 2009 and in one case won an injunction and $200,000.

These cases offer Twitter some positive reinforcement. It sets the stage for Twitter, giving it strength in deterring other would-be spammers, pointing to its past legal actions, as well as the Craigslist win.

However, it is too early to tell if Twitter will in fact have success in court. And even if there is success, there is no guarantee that future cases would fall in Twitter´s favor as well. But it should be enough to make future spammers think twice before running schemes on the microblogging site.

“We hope the suit acts as a deterrent to other spammers, demonstrating the strength of our commitment to keep them off Twitter,” the company said in a blog post on its site.

Spam was at one time just an annoyance, and not a real problem for Twitter. And in the past, the company did little but rely on its users to report any incidents of Twitter spam. But as the service´s growth rate ballooned to more than 140 million active users, Twitter recognized just how serious spam actually is.

Combating the problem, Twitter developed algorithmic solutions that scan tweets for behavioral cues, able to spot signs of spambots in action. Twitter also recently acquired security firm Dasient, a company that specializes in spam prevention. Twitter said it will continue to fight the problem head on with the development of further technical solutions and the creation of its very own in-house anti-spam team.

Twitter also remarked in its blog that it needs the support of its members to help stave off spam. It asked that anyone encountering possible spam on the site to report and block the account in question. That, in connection with Twitter´s anti-spam security measures, will help prevent users from falling prey to malicious links and also helps shut down hundreds of thousands of abusive accounts.

We are committed to fighting spam on all fronts, by continuing to grow our anti-spam team and using every tool at our disposal to shut down spammers, Twitter said.

TweetAttacks, one of the five targeted tool providers, has already been yanked from the web, taking the microblogging site a positive step further in the fight to do away with spam.