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There has been a rash of false DMCA take-downs affecting artists on Twitter, in conjunction with emails from the attacker offering to stop issuing the take-downs if given a ransom payment in bitcoin.

Twitter takes every case in isolation, and without questioning the order's legitimacy, so these attacks are very successful. The attacker cannot be traced by the DMCA order itself as it contains no true information and isn't verified by the webhost.

This essentially leaves the artist with no recourse against the malicious party directly, while they use the webhost as a conduit for harassment and, if a counter-claim is filed, a way to forcibly obtain the artist's home address.

Under DMCA law, is there a legal obligation for Twitter to positively attain the identity of the order's issuer before acting upon it? Can they be liable for enforcing false DMCA orders as if they themselves issued it, in this scenario where it's used as an instrument of harrassment?

(I guess the theory here is, since a DMCA take-down filed in bad faith is a tort on behalf of the filer, if the filer cannot be found through the negligence of the webhost who executes it, they would inherit the tort? I'm no lawyard)

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Under DMCA law, is there a legal obligation for Twitter to positively attain the identity of the order's issuer before acting upon it?

No. In fact, there is a reverse onus: Twitter must take every DCMA application at face value if they are to benefit from the protections in the DMCA.

Can they be liable for enforcing false DMCA orders as if they themselves issued it, in this scenario where it's used as an instrument of harassment?

No.

Is this a problem?

Undoubtedly. However, unfortunately, that's what happens when you apply 19th-century law that was half-arsedly patched in the 20th-century to 21st-century issues.

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  • Isn't that per DMCA request? If Twitter gets 100 legitimate looking requests and removes the contents, and one request that looks like a scammer and is a scammer, would rejecting that one request get them into trouble, assuming that a scammer with no actual copyright isn't going to sue them for copyright infringement?
    – gnasher729
    May 11 at 16:56
  • @gnasher729 Twitter doesn’t get 100 requests - it gets 100,000. Only algorithms “look” at them and there’s nothing in a take-down request that would distinguish a liar from a truth teller.
    – Dale M
    May 11 at 21:34

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