Twitter Calls Fake-Celebrity Profile Suit 'Frivolous'

A US baseball manager is suing Twitter over fake posts in his name on the micro-blogging site. Tony La Russa is claiming that the fake posts infringe his trade mark rights and count as cybersquatting.

Twitter has said that it has removed the fake profile in line with its existing policies but has denied earlier reports that it had settled the suit and paid a donation to charity in relation to the action. It called St Louis Cardinals' manager La Russa's suit "frivolous".

Twitter allows web users to follow one another's constant stream of short updates on their activities. Someone pretending to be La Russa registered his name and made a short series of posts, some of which were offensive. The manager has now taken legal action in a California court.

"[Twitter's] use of [La Russa]'s mark both in the site's domain name and on the site itself is misleading and likely to confuse users by leading them to believe that this site is endorsed and authored by [him]," said La Russa. "The site contains written entries that are impliedly written by [La Russa], when in fact they are not. The entries are derogatory and demeaning and are damaging to [his] trademark rights."

In a blog posting, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone said that the micro-blogging company had taken the fake profile down, as it would any other demonstrably fake profile. It said that it would not settle the lawsuit, but would demand that a court throw it out.

"Impersonation violates Twitter's Terms of Service and we take the issue seriously," he said. "We suspend, delete, or transfer control of accounts known to be impersonation. When alerted, we took action in this regard on behalf of St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa."

"Reports this week that Twitter has settled a law suit and officially agreed to pay legal fees for an impersonation complaint that was taken care of by our support staff in accordance with our Terms are erroneous. Twitter has not settled, nor do we plan to settle or pay," he said.

"Mr. La Russa’s lawsuit was an unnecessary waste of judicial resources bordering on frivolous. Twitter’s Terms of Service are fair and we believe will be upheld in a court that will ultimately dismiss Mr. La Russa’s lawsuit," said Stone.

If the case goes to court, Twitter is likely to argue, as search engines and other internet publishers have done, that it is a tool used by other people, and that it has no legal liability for the actions of its users.

La Russa's legal claim says that the court should make a connection between the people who were actually behind the fake posts and Twitter.

"[They] were acting as agents, servants, and/or employees of each of the remaining defendants [including Twitter], and in doing the things hereinafter alleged were acting within the course and scope of such agency and/or employment and with the permission and consent of the other defendants," the suit said.