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Twitter Sued For Altering Direct Messages

Lawsuits are in general quite common in the tech industry. We often see phone companies battling out their grudges in the courtroom over the slightest of things. However, In today’s lawsuit there is somewhat of a more personal gripe – with the plaintiff Wilford Raney of the state of Texas, filing the suit through Edelson PC, claiming that Twitter may have been snooping our direct messages.

The suit claims that Twitter are seemingly modifying and checking the content of messages sent between users, sliding into our DMs as it were. Apparently, according to the suit, when Twitter sends a message something in the company reads it, then modifies certain content relating to hyperlinks on the message, before sending it on.

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This man in the middle behavior is apparently to shorten link URLs sent between users using a Twitter-owned link shortening tool. Apparently the naughty bit is that by using the shortener Twitter is able to generate through traffic data and/or revenue by forwarding the data onto third parties. In other words, the alleged system is designed to track what’s trending in the direct messaging scene.

“Twitter’s algorithms will read through the Direct Message, identify the hyperlink, and replace it with its own custom link, thereby sending the person clicking on the link to Twitter’s analytics servers before passing them on to the original linked-to website,” it said.

Twitter recently removed the character limit on direct messages, so you may wonder why they would still use the shortening anyway, and the lawsuit of course points to the data collection as the only reason the system is used. This type of private message modification is of course in breach of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act in the US.

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“When you have a privacy policy and the company is not being clear or transparent about what they’re doing, the reason is usually because economic gain is really their focus,” Said Jay Edelson, a higher up at the law firm representing the suit’s plaintiff.

At this time the allegations have been responded to publicly by Twitter, claiming that “We believe these claims are meritless and we intend to fight them,” According to a Twitter spokesperson.

If you have seen your DM’s being URL-shortened, feel free to speak up.

Source: Hollywood Reporter

Via: Wall Street Journal