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How to Identify Twitter Posters and the Average Cost of Legal Fees


How to Identify Twitter Posters and the Average Cost of Legal Fees

On Twitter, users can post messages, images, and videos, known as tweets, within 140 personalitys. However, there may be instances where undesirable tweets are posted, such as those that infringe on privacy or constitute defamation and slander.

In order to claim damages against those who have made such posts, it is necessary to identify the poster. However, many Twitter users post tweets from anonymous accounts. Therefore, as a prerequisite for claiming damages, you must first request the disclosure of information about the poster.

At that time, Twitter may be able to identify the poster from their IP address.

In this article, we will explain when it is possible to identify a poster from their IP address, the procedure for doing so, and the average cost if you hire a lawyer, taking all these factors into account.

Examples of Defamation on Twitter

Twitter, due to the ease of posting and its high spreadability, is often associated with defamation.

For instance, there is a well-known case where a person was driven to suicide after being subjected to defamation on social media following comments made on a television program. In this case, several people who posted defamatory comments on Twitter were indicted for insult crimes due to a lawsuit filed by the victim’s family, and at the same time, they were ordered to pay substantial damages for civil torts.

Thus, defamation on Twitter can sometimes lead to significant disadvantages in social life. Therefore, it is crucial to take legal action promptly to avoid such situations.

To identify the poster, it is necessary to determine whether the post is illegal. The key point in determining the legality is whether there is a clear infringement of rights, and the more malicious the content, the greater the infringement of rights.

For more details on what kind of posts are considered illegal, please refer to the article below on our website.[ja]

Procedure to Identify Twitter Posters ①: Request for IP Address Disclosure

As explained at the outset, if you intend to sue someone for defamation, you need to know their personal information, such as their name and address. However, most defamatory posts on Twitter are made anonymously, making it difficult to identify the poster.

However, whenever a post is made on the internet, there is always a communication record called a log, and content providers (service providers such as Twitter) keep these logs for a certain period. The IP address is one of these logs.

Therefore, the first step is to request the provider to disclose the IP address as sender information.

What is an IP Address?

An IP address is a unique terminal identification information that a terminal connected to the Internet has, and it is possible to know from which terminal it was sent by this request.

Twitter allows you to post by creating an account and logging in, and anyone can register if they have a free email such as Gmail or Yahoo! Mail. Therefore, the only information that Twitter has to identify the poster is the IP address (we will discuss this issue later).

The reason for requesting the disclosure of the IP address to identify the poster on Twitter is because of this.

Request for Disclosure of Poster’s IP Address by Provisional Disposition Procedure

Twitter, in principle, follows the laws of each country and cannot be realized without using court procedures. Therefore, the request for disclosure of the IP address is basically done through court procedures. However, the procedure is not a lawsuit but a provisional disposition.

A provisional disposition is a temporary measure determined by the court based on a petition, which is faster than a lawsuit and can be implemented in about 1-2 months.

And when you ask a lawyer to disclose the IP address and delete the post, the market price of the lawyer’s fee is,

about 300,000 yen for the retainer fee, and about 300,000 yen for the success fee.

What are the lawyer’s fees and compensation flow for reputation damage?[ja]

However, the cost varies depending on the specific content and quantity, such as the number of tweets you want to delete and the number of posters.

Although it is not often mentioned on the Internet, Twitter is a service operated by a U.S. corporation, so even if you request the disclosure of the IP address of a Twitter user who is thought to be Japanese in Japan, it will be a “court procedure against a foreign corporation”, and you will need to translate documents and some evidence into English and obtain the registration of the U.S. corporation.

Therefore, it is likely that an additional actual cost of about 200,000 yen will be required.

Need to Assert and Prove that the Post is Illegal

When requesting a content provider to disclose an IP address, it is necessary to meet the requirements set forth in the Provider Liability Limitation Act.

The Provider Liability Limitation Act is a law that stipulates “the limitation of damage compensation liability of providers (Article 3) and the request for disclosure of sender information (Article 4)” (from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications:[ja]), and Article 4, Paragraph 1 of the same Act stipulates that a request for disclosure of sender information can be made to a provider only when any of the following applies:

1. When it is clear that the rights of the person requesting the disclosure have been infringed by the distribution of infringing information.
2. When the sender information is necessary for the exercise of the right to claim damages by the person requesting the disclosure, or when there is a legitimate reason to receive the disclosure of the sender information.

Provider Liability Limitation Act Article 4 Paragraph 1

In other words, you must assert and prove that the post is illegal. To do this, you need:

  • Legal argument that the post is illegal (clear existence of rights infringement, no special circumstances to deny illegality)
  • Evidence to support these

Highly specialized knowledge is required to determine what legal arguments to make in relation to the specific post and how to substantiate them with what evidence. Therefore, it is recommended to consult with a lawyer who has specialized knowledge rather than making a judgment on your own.

If this procedure is successful, Twitter will disclose the IP address at the time of login for the past 60 days (as of February 2022, and this may change in the future).

Procedure ② for Identifying Twitter Posters: Prohibition of Log Deletion

Once the IP address is disclosed in Procedure ①, it becomes clear which transit provider (Internet connection providers such as Docomo Hikari, J:COM, etc.) provides the network environment to the terminal that made the illegal post. Since the transit provider knows information such as the address and name of the terminal’s subscriber, it is possible to identify the poster by inquiring the subscriber information of the terminal from the transit provider.

However, providers do not keep logs for a long period of time. Especially for mobile lines, the log retention period is short and they are deleted in about three months. Therefore, it is necessary to apply to the court to issue a prohibition order against the provider to prevent the logs from being deleted.

In reality, even without a court procedure, the provider may respond if notified. However, even in that case, it is necessary to assert and prove the illegality of the post in question.

Please note that the average attorney’s fee for this notification is said to be around 100,000 yen, but the amount varies depending on individual cases, so please consult with the attorney you are considering hiring.

Procedure ③ for Identifying Twitter Posters: Request for Disclosure of Address and Name

If the transit provider preserves the log as per Procedure ②, the next step is to request the transit provider to disclose the address and name of the subscriber of the login terminal used for the post. As the address and name are important personal information, this will be done through formal legal proceedings, which may take a considerable amount of time (about 6 months from filing) depending on the case.

If the court determines that the post in question is illegal, it will order the transit provider to disclose the address and name of the subscriber of the login terminal used for the post.

However, the poster also has the constitutional right to freedom of expression, so whether the post in question is illegal will be carefully judged. Therefore, not only the content of the post, but also the circumstances under which it was posted, and the extent of the disadvantage suffered by the target due to it, must be considered depending on the case. Please consult with an experienced lawyer.

The market rate for attorney fees for this procedure is said to be,

about 300,000 yen for the initial fee, and about 200,000 yen for the success fee

What are the lawyer fees and compensation flow for reputational damage?[ja]

as stated.

Once the Poster is Identified on Twitter, Damage Claims are Possible

Once the address and name of the contract holder of the login terminal are disclosed in Step 3, it becomes possible to claim damages from the poster.

Here, you can claim compensation for damages such as attorney fees and consolation money incurred in Steps 1 to 3 from the poster.

When it’s difficult to identify from an IP address, there’s also a method to request Twitter for discretionary deletion

Twitter: Help Center[ja]

There may be times when you can’t identify the poster from the IP address, or you just want to delete a post on Twitter.

To request a tweet deletion, in addition to the procedure through the court, there is a method of directly requesting a deletion from Twitter. On Twitter, tweets that violate the terms of use are subject to deletion, so if the tweet you want to delete falls under Twitter’s prohibitions, you can apply for deletion even if the post is not illegal.

However, this is merely a standard for Twitter’s management to voluntarily delete, and it does not necessarily mean that it will be deleted.

Nevertheless, there are cases where posts without illegality are successfully deleted, so if you are not considering damage claims and just want to delete, it may be better to try this before using court procedures such as identifying the poster. We explain in detail in the article below.[ja]

Issues with Identifying Posters from IP Addresses on Twitter

So far, we have explained the general procedure for identifying a person’s name and address from the disclosure of their IP address. However, there are two unique circumstances when applying the same procedure to Twitter.

Firstly, Twitter Inc. only retains the ‘IP address at login’, not the ‘IP address at the time of posting’ due to system constraints. Unlike regular websites and bulletin boards, social media accounts (including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.) can be logged in from multiple devices simultaneously.

The second issue is that intellectual property courts tend to take the stance that they cannot legally demand the disclosure of a person’s name and address based on the ‘IP address at login’. This is because it is unclear who the poster is in the case of simultaneous logins. Therefore, whether or not the disclosure of an IP address on Twitter is possible is a matter of judicial discretion.

Furthermore, if a request for disclosure of a name and address is granted, the information disclosed will be strictly the name and address of the contract holder. Caution is required as it cannot be definitively stated that the disclosed contract holder is the poster, such as in cases where the poster is a child.[ja]

Conclusion: Consult a Lawyer if You Want to Identify a Poster from a Twitter IP Address

Identifying a poster on Twitter involves multiple legal procedures, and it’s a race against time. It’s a complex process that requires expert judgment.

Furthermore, as mentioned above, the way logs are stored on Twitter is different from other sites, so it can be difficult to identify the poster in some cases. However, if you can identify the poster, you can claim damages against them.

That being said, how to construct a legal argument, what evidence to use, and what claims to make vary depending on the individual case. You cannot file a lawsuit multiple times for the same claim in court. Therefore, making that decision is very important and must be done carefully.

If you have specific concerns, please consult a lawyer who is experienced in dealing with defamation and internet-related issues.

Introduction to Our Firm’s Measures

Monolith Law Office is a legal office with high expertise in both IT, particularly the internet, and law. In recent years, overlooking information related to reputational damage and slander spread on the internet can lead to serious harm. Our firm provides solutions for managing reputational damage and online crises. Details are provided in the article below.

Managing Attorney: Toki Kawase

The Editor in Chief: Managing Attorney: Toki Kawase

An expert in IT-related legal affairs in Japan who established MONOLITH LAW OFFICE and serves as its managing attorney. Formerly an IT engineer, he has been involved in the management of IT companies. Served as legal counsel to more than 100 companies, ranging from top-tier organizations to seed-stage Startups.

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