PeopleBrowsr wins temporary injunction against Twitter

Social media analytics service claims the microblogging site threatened to cut off access to its firehose of data.

Steven Musil Night Editor / News
Steven Musil is the night news editor at CNET News. He's been hooked on tech since learning BASIC in the late '70s. When not cleaning up after his daughter and son, Steven can be found pedaling around the San Francisco Bay Area. Before joining CNET in 2000, Steven spent 10 years at various Bay Area newspapers.
Expertise I have more than 30 years' experience in journalism in the heart of the Silicon Valley.
Steven Musil
2 min read

PeopleBrowsr, the social media analytics service behind Kred, has won a temporary restraining order against Twitter that allows it continued access to the microblogging site's firehose of data.

PeopleBrowsr sued Twitter in San Francisco Superior Court today, alleging that Twitter was restricting its access to the tweets and data that is key to providing real-time statistical analysis sought by its clients. The court scheduled a hearing to discuss the injunction for January 8, 2013.

In its complaint (see below), PeopleBrowsr said that it had paid Twitter $1 million a year for the past four years for access to the firehose. The company said Twitter told it in 2011 that it intended to restrict firehose access to "a limited number of 'Twitter-driven' partnerships that it can closely control."

The complaint goes on to say that Twitter informed PeopleBrowsr in May that it should plan to transition off the full firehose and suggested that it seek access through resellers Gnip or DataSift. The two companies entered mediation, during which Twitter informed PeopleBrowsr that it would terminate access if no agreement was reached by November 30.

PeopleBrowsr said the purpose of the lawsuit was to maintain an open ecosystem for its unique data.

"We relied on Twitter's promise of openness when we invested millions of dollars and thousands of hours of development time," PeopleBrowsr CEO Jodee Rich said in a blog post. "Long term supply is essential as this industry matures. We made this application to ensure full unrestricted access to the Firehose for our Enterprise and Government clients."

A statement from Twitter said the lawsuit was "without merit" and that the company planned to "vigorously defend against it."

In its court response (see bottom filing), Twitter dismissed the lawsuit and suggested PeopleBrowsr required basic business education.

This is Contracts 101. Although PeopleBrowsr attempts to dress its case up as some sort of grand antitrust or interference case, it is not. The operative facts could not be simpler, or more dispositive. PeopleBrowsr and Twitter negotiated, at arm's length, an integrated contract with a one year term, after which either party could terminate at will after giving 30 days' notice. Twitter has exercised that contractual right. PeopleBrowsr attempts to ignore the plain language of the contract by imagining completely different contract, arguing that 'Twitter contracted to provide an open ecosystem.' ... Nonsense.

PB v Tw Complaint TRO 28 Nov 2012

2012-1.11.28 Opposition to Application for TRO