Judge Dismisses X Lawsuit Against Data-Scraping Firm

A California federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit by social media platform X, formerly Twitter, against an Israeli data-scraping company over claims including fraud and breach of contract.

X had alleged that Bright Data broke its terms of use through its practices of scraping publicly available information from the platform and selling the content, as well as selling tools that allow others to copy and sell such content.

San Francisco District Judge William Alsup ruled last week that the social media firm failed to plausibly allege the actions violated its user agreement.

He found that data-scraping tools are not inherently fraudulent and that allowing social media companies to arbitrarily decide the use of public information that they do not themselves own, and which they themselves collect and use, “risks the possible creation of information monopolies that would disserve the public interest”.

Image credit: Elon Musk/X/Twitter

‘De facto copyright’

X is not entitled to “de facto copyright ownership” of copyrighted content that X’s users made available to the public, Alsup said.

“X Corp. would yank into its private domain and hold for sale information open to all, exercising a copyright owner’s right to exclude where it has no such right,” wrote the judge in his decision.

“In addition to giving itself de facto copyright ownership in copyrighted content that X users designated for public use, X Corp. would give itself de facto copyright ownership over content that Congress declined to extend copyright protection to in the first place.”

“Bright Data’s victory over X makes it clear to the world that public information on the web belongs to all of us, and any attempt to deny the public access will fail,” said Bright Data chief executive Or Lenchner.

Public data

The lawsuit claimed that Bright Data’s practices were a “blatant violation of X Corp.’s terms of service” and that it “induces and facilitates other X users to violate their own agreements with X Corp. by selling automated data-scraping tools and services”.

In January the court rejected similar claims against Bright Data by Meta over alleged terms-of-service violations involving Facebook and Instagram.

Meta in February said it was abandoning the lawsuit.

In March a San Francisco judge dismissed X’s lawsuit against the nonprofit Center for Countering Digital Hate, which analysed scraped data to find a rise in hate speech on the platform.

The judge said there could be “no mistaking” that the suit was about “punishing” the firm’s critics.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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