Twitter reluctant to play by the rules

17 October 2017

An unnamed company has faced difficulties in having offending tweets removed. In May of this year, a Twitter user posted tweets whilst adopting the handle of the company’s chief executive.

After the company complained, the social media giant removed the account, as impersonation violates its terms of service. Twitter however refused to reveal the identity of the user as it does not release such information unless required by a valid legal process.

On 27 August, the user appeared to resurface under a different handle, this time posting company financial information. The company again complained, however Twitter refused to delete the account as the posts did not breach its terms of service.
The company then began legal proceedings on 6 September, with the NSW Supreme Court ordering Twitter to remove the offending tweets and suspend the accounts from which the posts had originated.

However, in a manner not unlike Greek mythic Hydra, where one handle was removed, several more were sure to resurface in its place. On 9 and 10 September the original handle, but for a slight spelling variation, returned by cheekily proclaiming “we are back up” and proceeding to publish more of the company’s confidential information.

Twitter itself has expressed frustration at what appears to be expected of it by the legal system, stating that it has over 300 million active users, who post enormous amount of content and thus the pro-active monitoring of user content for offending material is simply not feasible. It did however say, although perhaps for PR reasons more than anything else, that it is committed to the prompt investigation of reports of offending posts brought to its attention.

Justice Pembroke, who presided over the ruling, however had faith in the company’s willingness to regulate, stating “although Twitter publicly disclaims any responsibility for user content, the success of its business model depends in part on ensuring that the Twitter platform is not used by dishonest persons who seek to damage others“.

For businesses experiencing such issues, following this course should only be undertaken after a careful consideration of the costs involved. A better approach may in fact be a solid employee social media policy and greater security around sensitive information.