Twitter Threatens Lawsuit Over Threads App

Twitter has sent a letter to Meta Platforms CEO Mark Zuckerberg threatening legal action over its recently released Threads app.

Meta had, as expected, launched its Twitter rival Threads on Thursday, and very quickly it surpassed 30 million sign ups, amid warnings from analysts it could pose a true threat to Elon Musk’s Twitter.

Jack Dorsey and Elon Musk had initially responded to the launch by joking about Threads data collection code of practice. And even current Twitter CEO, Linda Yaccarino, did not seem to be overly concerned, after she tweeted that Twitter was “often imitated – but the Twitter community can never be duplicated.”

Threads logo.
Image credit Meta Platforms

Threads threat

But given the scale of the Threads signups from users unhappy at the current state of Twitter under the controversial ownership of Elon Musk, the tone soon changed.

“Meta’s release of Threads came at the perfect time to give it a fighting chance to unseat Twitter,” Niklas Myhr, professor of marketing at Chapman University, was quoted by Reuters as saying Thursday, in reference to the turmoil at Twitter after it limited the number of tweets users can see.

“Threads will be off to a running start as it is built upon the Instagram platform with its massive user base and if users adopt Threads, advertisers will be following closely behind,” Myhr reportedly added.

Threads is automatically linked to a user’s Instagram account – a move than provides access to more than 2 billion monthly active Instagram users.

Meta is pitching Threads as Instagram’s friendly and open text-based conversation app, and to tempt Twitter users, its interface is similar to the microblogging platform.

Twitter letter

And now X Corp’s (owner of Twitter) lawyer Alex Spiro has threatened to sue Meta in a letter to CEO Mark Zuckerberg, accusing Meta of the “wilful” misappropriation of trade secrets.

In the letter, Spiro alleged that Meta’s Threads was built by former Twitter employees “deliberately assigned” to develop a “copycat” app.

In the letter however, Spiro offered no concrete examples of Twitter employees using trade secrets to build the app. But many believe the letter is a sign of Musk’s level of concern given Meta’s user base and technical expertise.

“Based on recent reports regarding your recently launched ‘Threads’ app, Twitter has serious concerns that Meta Platforms has engaged in systematic, wilful and unlawful misappropriation of Twitter’s trade secrets and other intellectual property,” wrote Spiro.

Spiro said over the past year Meta had hired dozens of former Twitter employees, who allegedly had access to Twitter’s trade secrets and other highly confidential information.

Spiro alleged Meta used these former Twitter staff to accelerate the development of Meta’s competing app.

But it should be noted that Meta has been developing a Twitter rival for a good few years now. In August 2019, reports emerged that Facebook was developing a new app called Threads, built on top of Instagram.

Spiro said Twitter intends to “strictly enforce its intellectual property rights,” and demanded that Meta stop using using any of the undisclosed Twitter trade secrets.

Spiro also wrote that Meta is “expressly prohibited from engaging in any crawling or scraping of Twitter’s followers or following data.”

“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,” Spiro concluded.

There has already been a response to the letter from Meta.

“No one on the Threads engineering team is a former Twitter employee,” Andy Stone, Meta communications director, posted on Threads. “That’s just not a thing.”

Elon Musk however has also waded in, tweeting “competition is fine, cheating is not.”

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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