Lawyers for Elon Musk have threatened to take legal action against Meta Platforms after the Mark Zuckerberg-owned company this week unveiled a microblogging platform rivaling Twitter called Threads.
In a July 5 letter (pdf) addressed to Mr. Zuckerberg, Mr. Musk’s attorney Alex Spiro wrote that Twitter has “serious concerns” that Meta has engaged in “systematic, willful, and unlawful misappropriation of Twitter’s trade secrets and other intellectual property.”
The lawyer then went on to accuse Meta of having hired “dozens” of former Twitter employees over the past year who he claimed “had and continue to have access to Twitter’s trade secrets” and other confidential information.
Mr. Musk launched a series of layoffs at Twitter when he took over the company last year after discovering the social media site was losing over $4 million a day.
“Twitter deliberately assigned these employees to develop, in a matter of months, Meta’s copycat ‘threads’ app with the specific intent that they use Twitter’s trade secrets and other intellectual property in order to accelerate the development of Meta’s competing app, in violation of both state and federal law as well as those employees’ ongoing obligations to Twitter,” Mr. Spiro wrote.
“Twitter intends to strictly enforce its intellectual property rights, and demands that Meta take immediate steps to stop using any Twitter trade secrets or other highly confidential information,” the lawyer continued. “Twitter reserves all rights, including, but not limited to, the right to seek both civil remedies and injunctive relief without further notice to prevent any further retention, disclosure, or use of its intellectual property by Meta.”
Millions Sign Up to Threads
As well as the threat of legal action, Mr. Musk’s attorney stressed that Meta is “expressly prohibited” from engaging in what is known as “crawling or scraping”—effectively extracting—Twitter’s followers or data, adding that Twitter has the right to seek both civil remedies and injunctive relief if Meta engages in such activity.
Musk has previously alleged that “extreme levels” of Twitter data are being scraped and recently announced that the platform is limiting how many tweets per day various accounts can read in order to discourage such activities.
The Tesla CEO has previously claimed that artificial intelligence companies like OpenAI, which owns ChatGPT, are using Twitter’s data to train their large language models.
In April, Musk threatened to sue Microsoft, which has invested billions in OpenAI, accusing the tech giant of illegally using the social media platform’s data for such training.
“Please consider this letter a formal notice that Meta must preserve any documents that could be relevant to a dispute between Twitter, Meta, and/or former Twitter employees who now work for Meta,” Mr. Musk’s attorney wrote in his letter.
“That includes but is not limited to, all documents related to the recruitment, hiring, and onboarding of these former Twitter employees, the development of Meta’s competing Threads apps, and the communications between these former Twitter employees and any agent, representative, or employee, or Meta,” the attorney concluded.
The letter to Zuckerberg came on the same day that Meta launched Threads—and quickly amassed more than 30 million sign-ups and 95 million posts, thanks in part to Meta’s large user base on Instagram, according to The Verge.
Meta Denies Twitter Claims
The platform, which bears a striking resemblance to Twitter, is still in the early stages and currently includes restrictions on deleting accounts—namely that users must first delete their Instagram account in order to delete the Thread account, as they have to sign into Threads using their Instagram ID.
Threads also does not yet support keyword searches or direct messages and will not be rolled out in the European Union owing to the region’s stricter data privacy rules.
Still, the new platform appears to be an attractive new alternative to Twitter for many, given its early sign-ups.
Responding to the claims made by Mr. Musk’s attorneys in the letter on Thursday, Andy Stone, Meta’s communications director, took to Threads where he re-shared a portion of the correspondence.
“To be clear: No one on the Threads engineering team is a former Twitter employee — that’s just not a thing,” Mr. Stone said.
Mr. Musk did not directly address the letter on social media but did take to Twitter late Thursday where he penned, “Competition is fine, cheating is not.”
Elsewhere, Twitter’s new CEO Linda Yaccarino tweeted, “We’re often imitated — but the Twitter community can never be duplicated,” but again stopped short of referencing the legal threat toward Meta.
The Epoch Times has contacted Spiro and a Meta spokesperson for further comment.