Twitch Interactive, Inc. v. John and Jane Does 1-100 United States District Court for the Northern District of California filed on June 14, 2019 Case 3:19-cv-03418

Twitch filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, San Francisco Division, on June 14, 2019, against anonymous trolls attacking their platform. Twitch.tv is one of the world’s largest video-streaming platforms dedicated to allowing gamers to stream video game and related content to viewers around the world. Twitch boasts that users watched over 500 billion minutes of content in 2018 alone. Part of this success can be attributed to the measures Twitch has taken to police and moderate their platform.

Recently, on May 25, 2019, Twitch took action to ban the accounts of a large number of users who were actively violating Twitch’s Terms of Service. Twitch streams can be categorized based on the video game being streamed. Recently online trolls took note of the fact that Valve’s card-game Artifact, which has lost most of its player-base since its rocky release, had no broadcasters actively streaming the game on Twitch. Thus, these trolls took it upon themselves to fill the Artifact Twitch category with anything but the game’s game-play and content. Defendants alleged in the suit John and Jane Does 1 through 100 flooded the Artifact directory with dozens of videos that violated Twitch’s policies and terms. Notable examples included a video of the March 2019 Christchurch mosque attack, pornography, copyrighted movies and television shows, as well as racist and misogynistic videos. These accounts were rapidly banned shortly after they began to stream this content, but another account would instantly pop up and continue to stream the offensive content. It became clear to Twitch that the trolls were using automated bots to both create accounts and to artificially boost the viewer numbers of these streams in an effort to expose more of the Twitch community to this vulgar content.

Twitch alleges that Defendants’ actions threatened and continue to threaten Twitch and the safety of the Twitch community. The complaint alleges federal trademark infringement under 15 U.S.C. § 1114, breach of contract, trespass to chattels, and fraud. Twitch owns rights in the “GLITCH” trademark (U.S. Registration No. 5,769,921) and the TWITCH mark (U.S. Registration Nos. 4,275,943; 5,769,920; and 5,503,626). Twitch alleges that Defendants used these trademarks to advertise and draw viewership to their Twitch streams featuring prohibited content including using the mark on a Twitter account.

This case represents a major effort by a leading content platform to strike back against organized efforts by Internet trolls. The main hurdle to overcome though is the inherent anonymity of those who attacked the platform and the inability to attain relief as a result.