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A test of Twitter’s monopoly power

Watch this one closely, folks.

Some might suggest this is only about a contract dispute between PeopleBrowsr and Twitter, but there are big issues at play here. It’s a big deal that a court is examining whether Twitter needs to provide fire hose access, even if the origins of the tussle are about whether it, as a company, can change its business terms.

In the bigger picture, this case may be the first test of Twitter’s monopoly power over real-time social media.

While it may seem a stretch to compare a physical telco or broadcast network to a social media network, in some ways they’re similar in that other businesses build the foundations of their companies on them. Until now, however, physical telco networks and broadcast networks have been much more closely regulated by government bodies such as the FCC, because much of the underlying assets were once, in part, owned by the government. Twitter, on the other hand, has always been a private entity. Social media is so new, and the government, aside from privacy issues, hasn’t really taken an active hand in examining social media.

All that might change. And again, I say might. But as Mike Isaac points out at ATD, PeopleBrowsr says that given Twitter’s monopoly power over real-time social, it has a broader obligation to the ecosystem.

Now, I’m not a legal expert. This case is, in a sense, a contract dispute. But more broadly, as businesses and the broader economy move up the stack, more of the foundational layers of the stack might begin to come under more scrutiny. That’s why Twitter is taking this so seriously. A legal precedent could begin a slippery slope toward Twitter being required to provide access to the fire hose of naked tweets that is becoming so essential to the broader data and web ecosystem.