Social media giant Facebook filed a civil lawsuit today against a Turkish national for operating a network of at least 20 Instagram clones.
According to court documents obtained by ZDNet, Facebook claims that defendant Ensar Sahinturk, a software developer based in Istanbul, used automation software running from thousands of Instagram accounts to scrape data from more than 100,000 Instagram profiles, which he later republished on his own sites.
Described as "Instagram viewers," Sahinturk operated at least 20 clone sites where he listed Instagram photos and made a profit by showing his own ads.
Domains operated by Sahinturk included jolygram.com, imggram.com, imggram.net, finalgram.com, pikdo.net, and ingram.ws, according to court filings.
The earliest domains were created in August 2017, and many of the sites are still active today.
Facebook said it tried to avoid litigation by sending multiple cease & desist letters to Sahinturk in early 2019, but to no avail.
In court documents, Facebook said Sahinturk initially denied running the sites only to admit it later, take down some of the sites, eventually reinstate them months after, and stop answering subsequent legal letters.
Facebook now wants a US judge to grant it control over the domains on the ground of trademark infringement, but the company also wants to punish the Turkish developer by requesting the judge to approve the return of profits made from running the sites.
Besides the obvious violation of Instagram's terms of service and trademarks, Facebook also argues that the developer caused harm to Instagram users' personal privacy by making Instagram data easily accessible online to other users without Instagram profiles. This included exposing information such as pictures, videos, stories, hashtags, and locations.
Facebook said it already banned Sahinturk's Facebook developer account, and more than 30,000 other Instagram profiles he supposedly used to scrape Instagram and were associated with the 20 clone sites.
Since early 2019, Facebook's legal department has been filing lawsuits against several third-parties that have been abusing its platform. Previous lawsuits include:
March 2019 - Facebook sues two Ukrainian browser extension makers (Gleb Sluchevsky and Andrey Gorbachov) for allegedly scraping user data.
August 2019 - Facebook sues LionMobi and JediMobi, two Android app developers on allegations of advertising click fraud.
October 2019 - Facebook sues Israeli surveillance vendor NSO Group for developing and selling a WhatsApp zero-day that was used in May 2019 to attack attorneys, journalists, human rights activists, political dissidents, diplomats, and government officials.
December 2019 - Facebook sued ILikeAd and two Chinese nationals for using Facebook ads to trick users into downloading malware.
February 2020 - Facebook sued OneAudience, an SDK maker that secretly collected data on Facebook users.
March 2020 - Facebook sued Namecheap, one of the biggest domain name registrars on the internet, to unmask hackers who registered malicious domains through its service.
April 2020 - Facebook sued LeadCloak for providing software to cloak deceptive ads related to COVID-19, pharmaceuticals, diet pills, and more.
June 2020 - Facebook sued to unmask and take over 12 domains containing Facebook brands and used to scam Facebook users.
June 2020 - Facebook sued MGP25 Cyberint Services, a company that operated an online website that sold Instagram likes and comments.
June 2020 - Facebook sued the owner of Massroot8.com, a website that stole Facebook users' passwords.
August 2020 - Facebook sued MobiBurn, the maker of an advertising SDK accused of scraping user data.
August 2020 - Facebook sues the owner of Nakrutka, a website that sold Instagram likes, comments, and followers.
October 2020 - Facebook sues the maker of two Chrome extensions for scraping user data.