Judge Sides with Bright Data in the Case against Meta
January 23 brought a victory for Bright Data and the web scraping community. Headed by Judge Edward Chen, a U.S. district court denied Meta’s claims that Bright Data breached its contract terms by scraping content off Facebook and Instagram.
The dispute started approximately a year ago, when Meta and Bright Data sued one another. The social media giant asserted that Bright Data improperly scraped data from Meta’s websites, enabled others to scrape its data, and attempted to sell the scraped information, thus violating Meta’s terms of service.
The court, however, found no proof that any of the data was collected while signed in. Even though Bright Data had profiles on Facebook and Instagram, they were used for marketing purposes, rather than to extract data from the platforms. And while Meta’s terms are constructed to affect users with an account, they can’t be extended to visitors that are logged out or have no account in the first place.
Furthermore, the court opined that technical measures to prevent unauthorized access, such as CAPTCHAs, can’t be equated to gated content. And finally, the fact that Bright Data offers services capable to scrape data behind a login doesn’t mean that such usage took place or was endorsed.
The court’s decision comes as a big win for the web scraping community. Breach of contract is currently the main avenue for fighting automated access. In another lawsuit with Bright Data, X Corp. tries to assert that merely having an account by a company or its employees prohibits all web scraping activity on the platform.
In our opinion, this line of thought is both dangerous and far-fetched, and we’re happy that the court took a big step towards shutting it down.
Having said that, Bright Data’s fight with Meta isn’t over yet. The social media giant can further litigate on the basis of tortious interference with contract, and it’s reasonable to expect an appeal. Still, a win is a win, and today we celebrate.