Earlier this week, Facebook filed a lawsuit against Ensar Sahinturk, a Turkish national who operated the Instagram clone sites.
According to the lawsuit, Sahinturk used automation software to scrape the public profiles of Instagram, photos, and videos from over 100,000 accounts without permission and then published the data on his website.
Facebook states in the filing that it came to know about the network website about a year ago. In 2019, it came to know that the defendant controlled several domains. Many of these had similar names to Instagram, like imggram.com, jolygram.com, finalgram.com, ingram.ws, and pikdo.net. Jolygram.com has been in use since August 2017.
Other than being something which Facebook called as trademark violations, the data was obtained through the Instagram website by automated scraping.
The defendant programmed his scrapping software by making thousands of fake Instagram accounts. They would mimic the actions that the real and legitimate users of the app might have taken. According to Facebook, the total number of fake accounts could be very high. On April 17, 2020, the defendant used around 7,700 accounts to make the automated requests to the Facebook servers. On April 20, 2020, he used around 9,000.
Users were able to enter in the Instagram username and view their public profiles, videos, photos, hashtags, and location. The clone sites allowed the visitors to download the videos and pictures posted on Instagram, a feature which the company doesn’t offer.
Facebook attempted to protect against these terms of violations in 2019 when it disabled around 30,000 fake Instagram accounts. It also sent cease-and-desist letters and shut down the Facebook and Instagram accounts, including a Facebook page that belonged to the defendant. However, the defendant stated that he didn’t handle jolygram.com.
According to Facebook, the sources which it used to resolve the issues with the defendant’s operations have topped $25,000. The tech giant wants to determine the damages during the trial.
This lawsuit is just one of the many which Facebook has filed in recent years after the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
Since Cambridge Analytica, Facebook has sued an analytics firm for misusing its data, and other marketing intelligence operations. However, the company stated that this was the first Instagram lawsuit against the clone websites.
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