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Herbalife wants Twitter to unmask troll

An Herbalife logo is shown on a poster at a clinic in the Mission District in San FranciscoAn Herbalife logo is shown on a poster at a clinic in the Mission District in San Francisco
An Herbalife logo is shown on a poster at a clinic in San Francisco, California on April 29, 2013. Photograph by Robert Galbraith — Reuters

It isn’t the first time someone has said negative things on Twitter about Herbalife, but it may be the first that Herbalife has gone after. More precisely, the publicly traded supplement seller is pressuring Twitter to find out the particular user’s identity.

Herbalife filed a “discovery before suit” petition this week in Illinois court asking Twitter to provide information that would help identify the Twitter user @AfueraHerbaLIES. That user joined the service in January of this year and has tweeted fewer than 2,000 times, exclusively about Herbalife.

The user, who often tweets in Spanish, retweets negative news about Herbalife and accuses the company of endangering lives with toxic materials. The person has also specifically called out Herbalife corporate affairs executive Alan Hoffman, a former chief of staff for Joe Biden. Hoffman gave Reuters this statement: “This is pretty straightforward. We are not going to sit back and let someone make false and defamatory statements about our company.”

“The twitter feed of @AfueraHerbaLIES contains not only defamatory, disparaging, and deceptive posts about Herbalife and its products,” said the company in its filing, “but also contains numerous insulting and offensive statements about Herbalife’s management team, its members, and even federal regulators.”

Herbalife has asked the court to order Twitter to provide the information, and if and when it does, the company aims to serve documentation requests to the user.

Activist investor Bill Ackman, of the hedge fund Pershing Square, has famously been linked to Herbalife (HLF) for years as its most vocal critic: he has shorted the stock and accused the company of operating a pyramid scheme. Nonetheless, the company’s stock is up 36% so far this year.