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Wednesday, September 16, 2015


Original Story:

Twitter Inc.’s direct messages may not be as private as it claims, according to a lawsuit filed against the company on Monday.

A lawsuit seeking class action status alleges that Twitter “surreptitiously eavesdrops on its users’ private direct message communications. As soon as a user sends a direct message, Twitter intercepts, reads and, at times, even alters the message.” A Charleston class action lawyer is reviewing the details of this case.

The lawsuit takes particular issue with the hyperlinks sent within the private-chat function. The plaintiff claims that, for example, when a hyperlink to a New York Times story is sent via direct message, Twitter goes in and replaces the link with its own link-shortening tool,, before it reaches the intended recipient, which it then masks by displaying the original New York Times link. Link shorteners are commonly used on Twitter to make the most of a tweet’s 140-character limit, though Twitter removed the character constraint on direct messages last month.

“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,” claims the suit.

The lawsuit, filed in a San Francisco federal court, alleges that Twitter is doing this to benefit its advertising business. By using its own link shortening tool, Twitter can better track and show publishers how much Twitter drives traffic back to their site. A Minneapolis class action lawyer is following this story closely.

According to the lawsuit, this interference represents a violation of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and California’s privacy law.

“We believe these claims are meritless and we intend to fight them,” said a Twitter spokesman.

The lawsuit was filed by law firm Edelson PC and brought by Wilford Raney, a resident of Texas, seeking to represent two classes: U.S. Twitter users who have sent direct messages and U.S. Twitter users who have received direct messages. And it wants as much as $100 a day for each user whose privacy was violated.

“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, managing partner at the Chicago-based firm Edelson PC that is representing Mr. Raney.

Mr. Edelson said that its internal forensic experts were able to piece together how and why Twitter replaced the hyperlinks with its own URL shortener. But it has yet to come across evidence that Twitter was actually able to charge higher advertising rates thanks to the traffic data gleaned from intercepting hyperlinks sent through direct messages. “That’s obviously going to be a focal point of the litigation,” he said, adding “we feel confident that we understand why they’re doing it.” Mr. Edelson said a lot of people have been contacting the firm with questions since the lawsuit was filed this week.