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.