Twitch Files Suit Over Artificial Viewer Inflation Bots

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By Alexis Kramer

June 20 — Live streaming video platform Twitch Interactive Inc. has sued a group of website operators over their alleged sale of illicit software called “bots” to artificially inflate Twitch users' viewers and followers ( Twitch Interactive, Inc. v. Johnston , N.D. Cal., No. 5:16-cv-03404, complaint filed 6/17/16 ).

The defendants' bot services send fake viewers, followers and chat messages to broadcasters' streams to simulate real user activity, Twitch alleged in a complaint filed June 17 with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The defendants offer their services through domain names and websites containing the federally registered TWITCH mark, Twitch alleged.

The platform, which allows users to broadcast themselves playing video games, argued that the bots harm Twitch and its user community by misleading them about broadcasters' true popularity and making it difficult for users to discover legitimate broadcasters. Bot services “degrade the user experience, harm the quality of content on Twitch, and tarnish the Twitch brand,” Twitch said.

Twitch alleged that the defendants accessed without authorization Twitch's protected computers to provide bot services, in violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1030. It also brought claims of federal trademark infringement, cybersquatting and breach of contract.

Twitch Rules Ban Bot Use

According to Twitch, its terms of services expressly prohibit the use of any robot to access Twitch for any purpose. Twitch's rules of conduct specifically prohibit harmful activity such as artificially inflating live viewer statistics, the platform alleged.

The defendants accessed Twitch's computers to develop, use or provide their bot services without authorization or in excess of the authorization granted to them by the terms, Twitch said.

Twitch said it expended significant resources, in excess of the CFAA's $5,000 minimum statutory damage requirement, to investigate, stop and remedy the harm caused by the bots.

Twitch also alleged that the defendants registered domain names such as www.twitch-viewerbot.com and www.twitch-buddy.com with a bad faith intent to profit from the TWITCH mark. It asked the court to either transfer or cancel the domain registrations.

Perkins Coie LLP represented Twitch.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alexis Kramer in Washington at akramer@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Joseph Wright at jwright@bna.com

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