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Evan – Twitter needs a better policy on Usernames

Evan,

I have a bunch of Twitter usernames — I gobbled them up in March 2007. I’d consider them some of the “quality” ones. Almost like the domain game of 1995, I grabbed some of the best Twitter usernames, because I could see value in their use in the future.

I’ve been working and investing my own money in developing services to help make Twitter a better place. I came up with the first Twitter bots and have written extensively about Twitter on my blog. I’ve also helped with bugs and features via Al3x since SXSW ’07.

18 months later and I’ve slowly been getting various accounts pulled from me. You claim that I’m in violation of your terms of service, specifically: “You must not abuse, harass, threaten, impersonate or intimidate other Twitter users.”

Well, I’m calling bullshit on you right now. Just say it, the Boston Celtics called and they want you to pull rank to get them in the front-row seats of the game (Twitter), when I’ve been holding those seats (username:celtics) for 18 months.

Last night, “celtics” was pulled from me. You moved my account to “bc_fan_news“. I’m running a fan account with news on the Boston ‘Celtics’. I’m not trying to impersonate them — my username’s profile clearly states it is a fan account, run by a fan, and not officially affiliated at all. In prior weeks, I lost ‘stanford’ and ‘bostoncollege’. Why not give them [The Boston Celtics] the username ‘bostonceltics’ instead? Why was my ‘celtics’ one swiped? Why was anyone’s username swiped?

I’m just wondering, when does it end? My personal twitter account is ‘STP‘ — are you going to pull that from me when STP (motor oil company) or Stone Temple Pilots comes to you guys and claims trademark infringement? My initials are STP — as in, “Steven Thomas Poland.”

This is a slippery slope you guys are going down.

StockTwits just raised nearly $1 million — their business is based off Twitter. Definitely one of their assumptions is that they’ll be keeping their username ‘StockTwits’.

There are other Twitter accounts out there providing sports headlines and info about teams — so it’s obviously not a problem that I have many usernames. 

The point here is, you just made up an excuse as to why you pulled my username — and that’s not good policy. How does that make anyone feel comfortable investing in services/business on top of your platform, when it could all disappear at any moment for them?

Keep up the good work on Twitter, but please put a better policy in place here. I feel as though you’re allowing yourself to get bullied, likely because you don’t want to deal with any lawsuits — but how can anyone sue you — these are privately-owned usernames; not publicly-available domains. If a user is trying to impersonate, then I agree, pull their username from them. Otherwise, don’t give into these corporate and celebrity bullies that are just now, 18+ months later, jumping on the Twitter bandwagon.

Sincerely,

Steve Poland

Update: Allen Stern at CenterNetworks brings up the question, “Will Twitter need to setup a dispute-resolution process and review board?”

Update 2: Chris Lockwood makes another good point, which is what can be the case with any username/acronym/word: “The funny thing is that “celtics” is not automatically a reference to a sports team. There is an entire ethnic group of people who had that name long before basketball was invented.”

Update 3: I did know the Terms of Service when I signed up, but still the question is how do they determine who should keep the username they’ve been using: “We reserve the right to reclaim usernames on behalf of businesses or individuals that hold legal claim or trademark on those usernames.”

Update 4: If you were an $800K investor in StockTwits, wouldn’t you want a written letter from Twitter stating that the username ‘stocktwits’ was no longer bound to the line above regarding the Terms of Service? Maybe there needs to be a process in place where companies/individuals can ensure that clause doesn’t apply to them?

Update 5: Some additional 1-liner comments by Dave Winer, Huffington Post, StockTwits investor Howard Lindzon

Update 6: Former TechCrunch writer Nick Gonzalez chimes in with a post of “Who Owns Your Social Media Accounts?” I reply with a post of my own, “It’s Time for Twitter Premium Accounts

Update 7: How did Evan deal with this at Blogger? There’s only one unique subdomain for ‘blogspot.com’ — so if the Boston Celtics had wanted to take away ‘celtics.blogspot.com’, would he have let them without warning to the current user of that blog?