Noah Kravitz
Mr Kravitz with a Windows Phone

A man has been sued for £217,000 for keeping Twitter followers that he had gained while working at a mobile news website.

Tweeting for Phonedog as '@Phonedog_Noah', Noah Kravitz gained 17,000 followers for the account, but eight months after he left, Phonedog has filed a lawsuit claiming that the list of followers is a customer mailing list.

The website claimed that it had invested "substantial" resources into building it, but Mr Kravitz argued that his former employer had given him permission to use the account after he left, as long as he tweeted on Phonedog's behalf occasionally.

"I said sure, as we were parting on good terms," Kravitz told the New York Times.

Phonedog said in a statement: "The costs and resources invested by Phonedog Media into growing its followers, fans and general brand awareness through social media are substantial and are considered property of Phonedog media."

Mr Kravitz is being sued $2.50 (£1.60) per user, per month for the eight months that he has been using the account since leaving the company. The account had 17,000 followers when the lawsuit was filed, but that has since grown to 24,000.

After leaving the company, Mr Kravitz changed the Twitter user name from PhonedogNoah to Noah Kravitz and continued to use the account for personal means.

"We intend to aggressively protect our customer lists and confidential information, intellectual property, trademark and brands," commented Phonedog.

The website released another statement on December 28, stating that Mr Kravitz's role was to "promote Phonedog's published paid content, giveaways, and live blogging events and to provide the audience a way to follow Noah during his daily activities as a representative of the company."

Continuing: "Phonedog has always strived to provide a very personal user experience by frequently communicating with its audience, and all of our editors were and are encouraged to tweet personal aspects of their life to the account."

This lawsuit has raised many questions about a company's Twitter followers and who owns the account, and how much value - if any - can be attached to each follower.

Mr Kravitz tweeted on December 30 "What does 'Here, you keep it,' actually mean?" followed by: "I do not view people as property."