Monday, September 28, 2015

Class action suit against Twitter

Earlier this month, a citizen of Texas allowed his name to be used as Plaintiff in a federal complaint alleging [this is my plain English interpretation] that when Twitter said its direct messages were private, he thought they were in fact private. The complaint seeks determination of a class action, on behalf of all Twitter users who have ever sent or received a direct message, and five million dollars in statutory damages.

Does anyone nowadays expect anything on the internet to be private?

Anyway, Mr. Wilford Raney sent and received direct messages on Twitter, and he was theoretically upset that Twitter intercepted those messages, without his knowledge or consent, and modified any links so they didn't include so many characters.

Apparently his “upset” was the fact that he wasn't paid for such modification of links.

The complaint is very good at describing, at least from the Plaintiff's point of view, the inner workings of Twitter, and the fact that Twitter gains financially from shortening links by proving its reach and impact on internet traffic, which results in the negotiation of better advertising rates. Plaintiff alleges that Twitter violates the federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act and the California Invasion of Privacy Act.

Now, I don't do a lot of federal work, and I haven't analyzed the two statutes cited in this complaint, but in my personal, lay opinion [which is probably worth less than the proverbial two cents], I come to the following knee-jerk reactions:

1.  If in fact Twitter said these direct messages were private (and did not define the word private as meaning “not visible to the general public” instead of “only between sender and receiver”), then Twitter needs a better legal team.

2.  The Plaintiff's bar in California, upset with the change in law that made it so they could no longer shake down small business owners for alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act because their handicapped parking striping was one-quarter inch too narrow, have now found another way to make money.

3,  Wilford Raney doesn't understand the internet, because anyone with half a brain realizes that nothing on the internet can really be deemed private. What Wilford Raney does understand [probably quite well], is that there is money in being, or pretending to be, na├»ve and/or stupid.

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