Company sues ex-employee for ‘stealing’ Twitter account

As social networking becomes the norm for business, organizations must find ways to protect their brands online. The outcome of a recently filed lawsuit could affect how easy it is to do that. 

Noah Kravitz worked as a writer for PhoneDog.com, a website that sells mobile phones and also features reviews and blogs. While employed there, he was given control of a Twitter account with the name Phonedog_Noah to post on behalf of the company. The account eventually amassed 17,000 followers.

After Kravitz quit his job, PhoneDog asked him to stop using the account. Instead, he changed the account name to NoahKravitz and kept it — along with all the account’s followers — for his personal use.

PhoneDog then sued Kravitz, claiming the account and list of followers was a trade secret that Kravitz stole. The suit asks for $340,000 in damages, which PhoneDog calculated as the value of the account over the eight months Kravitz had been using it when the suit was filed.

Kravitz asked for the case to be dismissed, arguing it was impossible for the company to claim ownership of a social media account or assign a monetary value to it. The judge let the suit proceed, however.

Many companies have employees use corporate social networking accounts to promote the business online. And as with another recent case in which an employee claimed her employer unlawfully used her personal accounts, the legal waters can get muddied when an account’s ownership and purpose aren’t clearly stated.

Cite: PhoneDog v. Kravitz

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