Meta Sues Person Who Scraped Over 350,000 Instagram Profiles

Meta Lawsuit

Meta has announced that it has filed separate legal actions in federal court against a company and an individual who scraped data from Facebook and Instagram.

In a note on its website, spotted by Engadget, Meta says that it has filed a lawsuit against both a company called Octopus — what it says is a former U.S. subsidiary of a Chinese multinational tech firm that offers data scraping-for-hire services — as well as a single individual named Ekrem Ateş.

Meta says that Octopus offered customers the ability to pay to have data scraped from a host of target websites including Amazon, eBay, Twitter, Yelp, Google, Target, Walmart, Indeed, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram.

Meta positions itself as a leader in taking legal action against companies like Octopus to protect people from being exposed to these types of services.

“Companies like Octopus are part of an emerging scraping industry that provides automation services to any customer — regardless of who they target and for what purpose they scrape. This industry makes scraping available to individuals and companies that otherwise would not have the capabilities,” Meta writes.

“Protecting people against scraping for hire services, operating across many platforms and national boundaries, also requires a collective effort from platforms, policymakers, and civil society and is needed to deter the abuse of these capabilities both among those who sell them and those who buy them.”

Meta’s lawsuit alleges that Octopus violated its Terms of Service as well as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act “by engaging in unauthorized and automated scraping and attempting to conceal their scraping and avoid being detected and blocked from Facebook and Instagram.”

Meta’s action against the Turkish-based individual Ateş is for what they allege was his use of automated Instagram accounts to scrape data from the profiles of over 350,000 Instagram users, which he then published on his own website or what is known as a clone site.

“A clone site is a website that copies and displays Instagram profiles, posts, and other information without authorization,” Meta explains.

Meta says that since February of 2021, it has taken a number of actions against Ateş including disabling accounts, sending a cease and desist letter, and revoking his access to Meta’s services. Clearly, the company has determined that more extreme action was necessary in order to curb his data scraping. Meta took similar action against another Turkish national in 2020 for scraping more than 100,000 Instagram profiles.

Image credits: Background of header photo via Meta