Posted by: rolfsky | February 1, 2008

w3top.org is stealing Twitter updates

Apparently, W3Top.org thinks it’s perfectly appropriate to take my Twitter updates, post them as part of their “100% Free online dating and matchmaking service for singles”, and create a bogus account for me with bogus friends and an even more bogus location.

[UPDATE: As of February 17th, W3top.org has now reverted to a generic parked domain. Any Twitter-stolen links are now nonfunctional. Looks like their domain expired and they have not renewed it. A link provided on the new parked site has an email mailto link which incorporates the text “Inquiring about the domain w3top.org, with status: Expired”]

If you want to take a look, here’s a specially formatted no-follow link so as to hopefully not increase their search ranking:

http://www.w3top.org/rolfsky

For a period of about two days (October 17th and 18th, 2007), they saved my tweets, snagged my username, and even my avatar. Apparently they grabbed the 10 items from my RSS feed. (Location and contacts information is not included in the RSS feed, so it was easier to fabricate it.)

We’ll suck some of their bandwidth and see how long it takes this counterfeit image to “break”:

my avatar on Twitter, stolen by Bitacle <— note, I never uploaded “rolfsky.png” to their servers.

They also fabricated 20 “contacts” and “08 followers” for me, thankfully nobody linked to my actual Twitter friends. Amusingly enough, I also noticed Biz’s old avatar there, but it was linked to the wrong username.

Biz Stone, Twitter God != 'avedely' != “avedely” as w3top.org would claim.

So just whois w3top.org?

A quick whois search will reveal the following:

Registrant Contact Information:
Name: Xasa Networks
Organization: Xasa Networks S.L.
Address 1: Plaza Avelino Avelin Toledano
Address 2: N 2 Bajo
City: Burgos
State: BURGOS
Zip: 09007
Country: ES
Phone: +34.947471134
Email: bitacle@gmail.com

I’m not the first person to have noticed this, as Bitacle is apparently doing the same thing to Jaiku users.

And this isn’t the first time Xasa Networks/Bitacle has run afoul of other people’s data. In 2006, Plagiarism Today explained the “Bitacle debacle” pretty thoroughly:

When you first visit the Bitacle home page, it appears to be nothing more than another personal home page, much along the same lines as Netvibes and Pageflakes.

Much like those sites, it contains a built in search engine for sorting through blogs, Web sites and more. One of the tabs on the search feature points to a search feature called “Aggregates”. A search there pulls results from blog entries, much like the regular blog search, but the results don’t lead to the original site, but to cached copies on the Bitacle server.

So this leaves us with the question, who really owns my Twitters? I wrote them, posted them to Twitter, and merrily went long my way.

Twitter is quite clear about copyright of twitters in their Terms of Service:

We claim no intellectual property rights over the material you provide to the Twitter service. Your profile and materials uploaded remain yours.

According to the Berne copyright convention, anything privately created is held in copyright by the creator. Brad Templeton explains this here on his page of 10 copyright myths:

For example, in the USA, almost everything created privately and originally after April 1, 1989 is copyrighted and protected whether it has a notice or not.

So we have a copyright violation (I never granted permission for Xasa/Bitacle to republish my works), but we also have something bordering on identity theft.

By republishing my content along with my known username and avatar image, they are implying that I support and endorse their service. This is, by the way exactly what they want people to think.

Because who wants to use a dating service that nobody else actually uses?

We have yet again run into an area where technology has outpaced the legal and social constraints put around it. But it’s not yet time to run around in a frenzy.

Eventually, we’ll figure this all out as a society but putting in place additional moral, legal and ethical constraints; but until then we wait for the societal immune system to become wise to this threat and start building a response.

Thankfully, no major accounts of a Facebook stalker have come to light yet, but I can assure you as soon as it becomes a “real” threat we’ll make “protecting your privacy” a required course at school.

Because, after all, is spreading a twitter about me spilling soda on my pants farther that my immediate social group, really necessary?

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Responses

  1. Hmmmm. . . . w3top isn’t too selective if they have you “seeking women” yet post your Oct. 18th Twitter!

  2. This reminds me of the people on eBay who build their feedback by selling 1c self-help-get-rich-quick-best-brownie-recipe-evar books and then try to sell something really expensive once they are “established”. Its’ all about the fluff – sort of a loss leader (that costs nothing) to show buy in for the “real” customers they hope to attract…

  3. […] and detect patterns), who talked about an identity theft that happened to him. In a post called “W3Top.org is stealing Twitter updates” Rolf wrote: Apparently, W3Top.org thinks it’s perfectly appropriate to take my Twitter updates, […]

  4. ha. upon reading this, I searched myself on there and they took mine, too.

    Have you emailed them about this at all? Have you emailed twitter? I’d be curious to know what route you’re taking.

  5. I was WONDERING what this damn thing was…good thing I found your post!

    What can we do about this er…site?

  6. They ‘took’ mine as well and I remember other twiiter-users talking about it too somewhere earlier on Twitter. And I do wonder too what to do about it?

  7. They stole my twitters too, but used another user’s profile pic.

    http://www.w3top.org/irritablecanary

  8. It seems that w3top.org is no more. I noticed a few days ago that they had stolen my twitter feed, and had claimed that I was looking for women in Saudi Arabia. However on checking them out today there appears to be a generic whois expired domain holding page.


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