Twitter Reportedly Under Federal Investigation

The FTC is asking questions about Twitter's relationship with third party apps

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The Federal Trade Commission is investigating Twitter over their treatment of third parties that build applications onto their platform. Business Insider suggests that the investigation is related to an incident involving entrepreneur Bill Gross and his company, UberMedia. Gross, who invented search advertising, has been buying various Twitter startups in an apparent move to create an ad-network within that ecosystem. Twitter itself had been making similar moves in the past year, buying clients like Tweetie and TweetDeck, adding image capabilities to and banning third-party advertisers in order to build their own network. Business Insider reports about the potential conflict:

Eventually, [UberMedia] got funding from Accel with the idea that the money would be used to buy TweetDeck. It sort of looked like Gross might be planning to launch a Twitter competitor--or at least string his Twitter clients into their own monetized network. But then Twitter got aggressive with Gross – first by shutting down several of its apps for a week or so, and then by stepping in and acquiring TweetDeck for itself.

Business Insider notes that neither the FTC nor Twitter replied for comment, though another Twitter app maker said, "Our lawyer has advised us not to talk about this particular topic."

Brad McCarty at The Next Web is skeptical of the whole report. McCarty reminds readers that Twitter did indeed suspend UberMedia's access to their service for a violation of policies in February. Twitter identified the violations made by UberMedia and others as, "a privacy issue with private Direct Messages longer than 140 characters, trademark infringement, and changing the content of users' Tweets in order to make money." UberMedia, who at that point were called UberTwitter, changed their name and made some adjustment to their services. McCarty now says:

UberMedia CEO Bill Gross responded to the charges, saying in an interview that UberSocial had changed its practices, though he did deny any wrongdoing in how the application was operating from the start.

Herein lies the issue at hand. If there really wasn’t more to the UberMedia and Twitter deal than what we were being told, then the matter was resolved long ago. So, either we haven’t yet heard the whole story, or the FTC is simply sticking its nose into an already-dead issue.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.