An Australian firm has taken Twitter to court after confidential financial information was leaked in a series of “venomous tweets” by someone impersonating the firm’s CEO and another senior officer.
The firm, which has a large number of partners, sought orders to stop Twitter publishing the offending material anywhere in the world and stop the unknown person operating any Twitter accounts.
The “barrage of tweets” between May and September became “increasingly bold and threatening” and “were clearly suggestive of a malicious intention to harm the plaintiff”, Justice Michael Pembroke said in his NSW Supreme Court judgment on Thursday.
While the identity of the author of the tweets is unknown, it’s “clear that he or she has access to some of the plaintiff’s financial records”, he said.
The “venomous tweets” continued in August but this time the twitter handle didn’t impersonate anyone, it “simply utilised a provocative descriptive noun”, Justice Pembroke said.
Again the firm complained but Twitter said the tweets didn’t violate its terms of service because there was no impersonation.
“This was clearly wrong,” Justice Pembroke said.
The firm made another complaint in early September following a further 17 tweets, but Twitter said they weren’t in violation of its private information policy.
When a fourth round of offending tweets appeared, stating “We are back up!”, the account was quickly shut down.
Legal proceedings started in September where interlocutory orders were made restraining the publication of “offending material” and suspending the relevant accounts behind the posts.
The firm also sought orders limiting future offending tweets and accounts.
Although Twitter didn’t appear at the final hearing, it submitted information via email that it is “not feasible to proactively monitor user content for offending material”, the judgment said.
Justice Pembroke said he does not consider it unreasonable or inappropriate to make orders for filtering or checking to ensure confidential information doesn’t get posted or is removed.
“The high profile and size of Twitter give me confidence in the utility of making the proposed orders,” Justice Pembroke said.
“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.”
The orders were confidential but were “substantially in accordance with the orders sought by the plaintiff,” Justice Pembroke said.