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Socially Aware Blog The Law and Business of Social Media

PeopleBrowsr Wins Round One Against Twitter

Posted in Litigation

The Superior Court of the State of California has entered a temporary restraining order requiring Twitter to continue to provide PeopleBrowsr with access to the Firehose, Twitter’s complete stream of all public tweets. Through the Firehose, Twitter provides third-party access to over 400 million daily tweets.

PeopleBrowsr is a San Francisco-based social media analytics firm that provides custom applications to clients ranging from private businesses, consumers and publishers to government agencies. PeopleBrowsr’s data mining and analytics platforms support various products and services, such as data streams, social media command centers and consumer targeting programs.  For example, PeopleBrowsr’s product Kred provides a real-time measure of social influence within social media user networks.

PeopleBrowsr’s business depends on its continued access to user-generated social media content from Twitter. Twitter’s recent decision to restrict PeopleBrowsr’s access to the Firehose led PeopleBrowsr to sue Twitter in California state court in order to protect its current business model.

PeopleBrowsr and Twitter entered into a license agreement in June 2010, enabling PeopleBrowsr to receive access to the Firehose in exchange for over $1 million a year. Twitter recently invoked a contractual provision allowing Twitter to terminate the agreement without cause.  PeopleBrowsr filed a complaint for interference with contractual relations, in which it claims that its products and services require access to the Twitter Firehose in order to provide clients with contextual data analysis. In response, Twitter claims that it had decided not to renew most of its direct-to-user Firehose contracts, instead reselling Twitter data in various forms through intermediaries. Without full access to the Firehose, PeopleBrowsr claimed, it could not provide the products that its customers expect. According to PeopleBrowsr, it needs access to the Firehose in order to detect and analyze emerging trends fully and quickly; all tweets in the Firehose are necessary to conduct the scoring and ranking of individual influence that underpins PeopleBrowsr’s analysis.

As this case moves forward it promises to provide an in-depth look at the Twitter ecosystem and guidance for companies with business models that depend on access to data from social media companies such as Twitter. Stay tuned for further developments.

Update: On April 25, 2013, Twitter and Peoplebrowsr have reached a settlement, wherein Peoplebrowsr will continue to purchase Twitter’s Firehose data directly through the end of 2013. At that point, Peoplebrowsr will have to purchase Firehose access through one of Twitter’s authorized data resellers, namely Gnip, DataSift, or Topsy. Financial terms of the settlement were not disclosed.