A Texas man is suing Twitter, alleging it unlawfully intercepts and alters its users' private messages.
Wilford Raney of Texas, individually and for all others similarly situated, filed a class action lawsuit Sept. 14 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California San Francisco Division against Twitter Inc., alleging violations of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and the California Invasion of Privacy Act.
According to the complaint, Raney registered for a Twitter account in 2009, agreeing to Twitter's terms of service. He has tweeted publicly more than 200,000 times from his personal computer and smartphone and has sent and received hundreds of direct messages, the suit says.
Twitter advertises that users can "talk privately" through its direct messages feature, but the complaint alleges Twitter intercepts, reads and sometimes even alters direct messages.
Specifically, when direct messages include a hyperlink, the lawsuit states, Twitter algorithms replace the hyperlink with its own custom link, which sends the user to Twitter's analytics servers before passing the user on to the original linked-to website.
The suit alleges Twitter benefits greatly by replacing a hyperlink with its own version of the link, increasing its perceived value to third-party websites and potential advertisers. The result is Twitter can subsequently negotiate better advertising rates, the suit says.
However, Twitter users, including Raney and others in the class, never consented to Twitter's interception, reading, monitoring or alteration of direct message content, in violation of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and the California Invasion of Privacy Act, the suit says.
Raney and others in the class seek damages of more than $100 per member of the classes per day of Twitter's violations or $10,000 per member of the classes, statutory damages of $5,000 per class member, punitive damages, attorney fees and court costs. The plaintiff is represented by attorneys Samuel M. Lasser of Edelson in San Francisco, and (pending pro hac vice) by Rafey S. Balabanian, Alexander T.H. Nguyen and Amir C. Missaghi of Edelson in Chicago.
U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California San Francisco Division case number 3:15-cv-04191-JCS.