South Tyneside Council may have spent around £228,000 in forcing Twitter to hand over details of users thought to be connected with a defamatory blog.
Councillor Ahmed Khan, one of the account holders whose details were released to the council under its subpoena, says persons close to the council have seen legal invoices totalling £228,000. Khan denies that he is behind the "Mr Monkey" blog, alleged to have defamed three council members and one council official on the site.
A South Tyneside spokesman said the council was standing by its estimates that the two-year case cost less than £75,000.
"I've been tipped off by someone that it's more like £228,000. I emailed the CEO of the council to see if the figures are correct, but they haven't responded," Khan told Computer Weekly.
He says the council was bent on legal action from the start. "My own investigations suggest they did not approach the individual or individuals through the blog before taking legal action," Khan said.
"I've asked some council officials and they said the leadership of the council were determined to pursue this, despite advice that it could backfire. They wanted vengeance against the blogger or bloggers to silence them," he added.
The council has been criticised for wasting taxpayers' money in pursuit of the action, as it has recently had to slash spending in South Tyneside by £32m.
Recent investigations from the Daily Mail have put the total cost of the case at around £250,000 and rising. The paper says the law firm representing South Tyneside, McDermott Will & Emery, charges around £300 per hour.
Legal experts have said the South Tyneside case could become a landmark in British libel law. "This is a warning shot to people that they cannot post things online with impunity," said Amanda Ball, senior lecturer on Media Law at Nottingham Trent University.