Twitter threatens to sue Meta over its new Threads platform

By , K24 Digital
On Fri, 7 Jul, 2023 07:29 | 5 mins read
Twitter threatens to sue Meta over its new Threads platform
A side by side image of Twitter owner Elon Musk and his Meta counterpart Mark Zuckerberg. PHOTOS/Courtesy

Twitter is threatening to file a lawsuit against Meta over its new Threads platform, accusing it of poaching former employees to create a 'copycat' app.

'Twitter has serious concerns that Meta Platforms (Meta') has engaged in systematic, willful, and unlawful misappropriation of Twitter's trade secrets and other intellectual property,' Twitter lawyer Alex Spiro wrote in a letter released Thursday.

'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 social-media platform owned by Elon Musk threatened legal action the same day Meta went live with Threads.

Meta creator Mark Zuckerberg painted Threads as a Twitter rival and has seen 30 million people sign-up since the debut.

Spiro accused Meta of hiring dozens of former Twitter employees who 'had and continue to have access to Twitter's trade secrets and other highly confidential information.'

He also claimed Meta assigned those staffers to create 'copycat 'Threads' with the intent to use Twitter's trade secrets and other intellectual property in order to further the development of Twitter's competitor.

'Meta is expressly prohibited from engaging in any crawling or scraping of Twitter's followers or following data. As set forth in Twitter's Terms of Service, crawling any Twitter services,' the letter stated.

The letter alleged the app is in violation of both state and federal law as well as those employees 'ongoing obligations to Twitter.'

Threads - which is trying to appeal to Twitter users by offering longer posts and accounts linked to their Instagram.

Twitter take-over

The decision to create the rival comes after Elon Musk purchased Twitter for $44 billion. Since then, Musk spearheaded a series of controversial moves - including cutting staff and limiting the number of messages people can see a day.

That has caused the value of Twitter to plummet, with Fidelity recently estimating Twitter is worth just one-third of what Musk paid.

Musk hit out at Meta's new platform and claimed it spreads 'false happiness' like Instagram - which is also owned by Meta.

Later, Musk responded to news of the potential lawsuit by stating on Twitter that 'Competition is fine, cheating is not.'

Zuckerberg has yet to respond to the threat of a lawsuit. But, he posted on Threads as its user base grew.

'Wow, 30 million sign-ups as of this morning. Feels like the beginning of something special, but we've got a lot of work ahead to build out the app,' the Facebook creator noted.

The Twitter-lookalike app, Threads, calls retweets 'reposts' and tweets 'threads.' It allows users to post up to 500 characters of text and up to five minutes of video.

Threads has been nicknamed 'Twitter Killer' online amid animosity between the rival billionaires who agreed recently to take each other on in a cage fight - with the Colosseum in Rome a potential venue.

Chef Gordon Ramsay, pop star Shakira and Mark Hoyle, better known as the YouTuber LadBaby, have already joined Threads and made their presence on the app known. Millions of others had preordered the app after its launch was announced earlier this week.

Zuckerberg said this week: 'I think there should be a public conversations app with 1 billion+ people on it. Twitter has had the opportunity to do this but hasn't nailed it. Hopefully we will.'

The Twitter rival received a mixed reaction after its launch.

Twitter users complained about 'bugs' and the 'lack of basic features' on Threads, with some sharing amusing GIFs saying that people would be 'running back to Twitter' after trying it.

The launch was clearly a first stab at a service as it lacked the bells and whistles of Twitter.

Threads does not have hashtags and keyword search functions, which means users cannot follow real-time events like on Twitter. It does not yet have a direct messaging function and also lacks a desktop version that certain users, such as business organizations, rely on.

Some users including popular tech reviewer Marques Brownlee also posted about the need for a feed that only consists of the people one follows. Users currently have little control over the main feed.

Now, the reaction to Threads' launch might include the threat of lawsuits. 

'Twitter reserves all rights, including, but not limited to, the right to seek both civil remedies or injunctive relief without further notice to prevent any further retention, disclosure, or use of its intellectual property by Meta,' Spiro's Thursday letter to Meta argued. 

Spiro asked Zuckerberg to consider the letter as a 'formal notice' that Meta must preserve any documents that could be relevant to the dispute between Twitter, Meta and any former Twitter employee who now works for Meta. 

'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 app, and any communications between these former Twitter employees and any agent, representative, or employee or Meta,' Spiro wrote. 

Over the past year, Meta has hired dozens of former Twitter employees, the letter noted. 

'Twitter knows that these employees previously worked at Twitter; that these employees had and continue to have access to Twitter's trade secrets and other highly confidential information; that these employees owe ongoing obligations to Twitter; and that many of these employees have improperly retained Twitter documents and electronic devices.' 

'With that knowledge, Meta 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,' the letter continued.  

In addition, the letter stated Meta is expressly prohibited from engaging in any crawling or scraping of Twitter's followers or following data. 

Musk's $44 billion acquisition of Twitter in October 2022 promised the biggest shake up since the company was founded in 2006.

Since then, his erratic management style has prompted both users and advertisers to turn away from the site. 

The former world's richest man was keen to take on the project after becoming disillusioned by the site's perceived biases and content moderation policy.

He said he wanted to build a 'common digital town square' where all voices could be heard and debated in a healthy way.

Changes to personnel and features, and the release of the 'Twitter Files' took the site in a radical new direction within a matter of weeks.

Twitter's revolution became a bloodbath in the process, cutting staff by 80 percent to hone in on the new direction, and then losing users and advertisers as a lean team struggled to manage disinformation, trolling and impersonation online.

Musk also recently announced limits on the number of Tweets people can see a day at 600. Users who paid $8 for a blue-check mark were able to see more, but still capped at 6,000 views.

Twitter users have proclaimed the site 'dead' since the controversial limits.

Despite the controversies, Musk declared Twitter usage is actually 'an-all time high' amid the firings and policy shifts.

'I just hope the servers don't melt!' Musk joked about the high usage.

Musk claimed the restrictions are a temporary measure introduced because 'we were getting data pillaged so much that it was degrading service for normal users'.

However, users were quick to point the finger of suspicion at the staffing cuts for the new limits, as well as the apparent non-payment of bills to crucial services - potentially including Google.

Despite the backlash, many Republicans have hailed Musk's takeover of Twitter as one of the last mainstream online spaces where they can share their views freely. 

Prominent figures in conservative media, such as former Fox News host Tucker Carlson and the podcasts hosts of The Daily Wire have streamed content directly on Twitter.

The first episode of Carlson's much anticipated 10-minute Twitter show has attracted more than 80 million views in less than 24 hours.

Conservatives claim the former Fox News host's monologue 'broke the media matrix,' with over 1million views within the first hour it was posted on June 6 but critics were not convinced and dismissed it as 'amateurish.'

Democrats and anti-hate watchdogs, meanwhile, said Musk's partisan comments and policy changes have effectively given far-right extremists a platform to spread hate and conspiracy theories. 

The new Musk-owned Twitter also helped DeSantis launch his bid for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. Though the launch was filled with bugs and delays that led to mocking of the move.

DeSantis' campaign said it took in $1 million online in the first hour after the announcement.

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