Elon Musk’s Twitter is threatening to take Facebook’s parent company, Meta, to court over its new rival social media app, Threads.
The night that Meta launched its new text-based app, Alex Spiro, Musk’s personal lawyer who also helped with his takeover of Twitter, sent Mark Zuckerberg a formal letter regarding Twitter’s “serious concerns” about the legality of Threads, as Semafor first reported.
The letter, confirmed by Insider, claims Meta used “Twitter’s trade secrets and other intellectual property” to build Threads.
Spiro went on in the letter to accuse Meta of hiring “dozens of former Twitter employees,” some of which “improperly retained Twitter documents and electronic devices.” He also suggested that Meta had been “crawling and scraping” Twitter data on users and followers by reminding the company such activity is “expressly prohibited.” Twitter over the weekend suddenly imposed rate limits for all users, something the company claimed after the fact was aimed at stopping other companies from accessing its data and another effort to combat bots misusing the platform.
A spokesman for Meta referred Insider to a Threads post from communications head Andy Stone, in which he wrote, “To be clear, no one on the Threads engineering team is a former Twitter employee — that’s just not a thing.” Stone added in a follow up Threads comment, regarding Twitter’s suggestion that Meta was “scraping” data: “Interesting, given that Threads is powered by INSTAGRAM.”
Twitter representatives did not immediately respond to requests for comment ahead of publication. Musk, responding to a Twitter account that posted the news of the letter, wrote “Competition is fine, cheating is not.”
While there is, and has for years been, employee crossover between Meta and Twitter, a source familiar with both companies said there are a small handful of former Twitter workers currently at Meta, none of whom appear to be currently working on Threads. Furthermore, another person familiar with Twitter noted Musk has let go or fired Twitter engineers by the thousands since taking over the platform in late October. Only about 500 engineers remain at the company, where there were once more than 3,500. And rank and file Twitter employees and engineers did not have non-compete agreements that would prohibit them in any way from seeking employment at Meta or any other tech company, the person added.
As for Twitter’s claim that former employees “retained” their work laptops, a former employee said everyone who was laid off, fired, or quit amid Musk’s takeover had their devices immediately “bricked,” meaning they were locked by the company and could no longer be used. Twitter was meant to collect the devicesfrom former employees, but took months to do so, according to numerous accounts of former employees.
Public tension between Musk and Zuckerberg has been heating up in recent weeks. The two men even passive aggressively challenged one another to a cage match, something very unlikely to happen, according to Musk’s biographer, Walter Isaacson. Since launching Threads on Wednesday, Zuckerberg has taken several shots at Twitter and Musk, eagerly posting about the now over 30 million sign-ups Threads has seen.
Musk is not one to shy away from occasionally spurious claims in court. He attempted to get out of his $44 billion deal to acquire Twitter last year by arguing the platform and its executives kept information from him and that the platform was overrun with “bots” that made it less valuable than he realized. Musk eventually backed off the claims and accepted he would be forced to buy Twitter.
Ironically, Musk may have had the idea to clone Twitter before Zuckerberg did. Twitter, in the same lawsuit attempting to force Musk to buy it, said the Tesla billionaire only invested in the company in an effort to build his own version of the app. Lawyers for Twitter said it had “very real concerns” Musk was requesting massive amounts of Twitter data, under the guise of concern over “bots,” in order to build a competing app.