We’ve all heard the stories about Apple rejecting apps from the iTunes App Store for arbitrary reasons. Now Twitter is raising some hackles for shutting down accounts for no good reason. In this case, the accounts belong to StatTweets, which was created by Robbie Allen, the developer behind sports stat site StatSheet. StatTweets was a way to get sports scores and updates about your favorite NBA, NFL, and college teams.
What did Allen do wrong? Twitter cited violations to its terms of service including “copyright infringement,” “mass account creation,” and “squatting” (you can read all the details on the StatSheet blog). It was probably the second issue that got him into hot water. Over the course of a weekend, he and his wife (manually) created 650 Twitter accounts, one for each team, with each account drawing data from that team’s page on StatSheet. It probably looked like spam to Twitter, but simply looking at some of the accounts would show that they were not spam.
In fact, all together the accounts attracted 63,000 followers, which indicates that some people found them useful. Twitter quickly became the second-largest referring site to StatSheet before the shutdowns. While he did create many accounts, each of those accounts was far more useful to sports fans of particular teams than one giant stream of updates from 650 different teams. So it seems counter-productive in this case to enforce that rule.
As far as the copyright issue, each StatTweets account used an official team logo for its avatar, which may or may not be actual copyright infringement and which he is certainly not alone in doing. Regardless, he offered to take down the logos if that was the issue. And Twitter’s trademark policy indicates that infringing accounts “created to help a community or provide information” would be given an opportunity to make changes before the accounts are deleted. Allen says he never got that chance.
The squatting violation refers to inactive accounts he is supposedly sitting on like those for college football teams. The reason those accounts are inactive, however, is because college football season is over.
Twitter support might be too overwhelmed to deal with this case, or maybe they are still trying to teach Oprah and her fans how to Tweet properly. In the meantime, this is Allen’s livelihood. (If you want to show your support, retweet this message). Twitter needs to treat its developers with some more respect because they are the ones creating some of the most compelling data streams and apps around the service.
Apple can still get away with making life hard for developers because, seriously, where else are they going to go? Twitter might feel like it is in the same boat, but it is not. There are plenty of other real-time streams to wade in.