In a battle of billionaires, Twitter and Meta are locked in an intense legal standoff after the launch of Meta’s new Twitter rival, Threads. On Wednesday, employees of Meta ‒ the company owned by tech mogul Mark Zuckerberg ‒ announced the immediate launch of an app to rival Elon Musk’s Twitter. The app, named Threads, was an instant hit, with 30 million user sign-ups in its first day.
Twitter, in the form of an attorney representing the company, has since threatened Meta with a lawsuit. The letter sent to Zuckerberg accused Meta of trade secret theft and systematic, willful, and unlawful misappropriation of Twitter’s trade secrets and other intellectual property. Meta Communications Director Andy Stone, however, has denied the accusation, flat-out denying that anyone on the Threads engineering team is a former Twitter employee.
“No one on the Threads engineering team is a former Twitter employee — that’s just not a thing,” Stone said in a Threads post on Thursday.
Elon Musk, billionaire founder of Tesla, weighed in on the news with a tweet of his own. “‘Competition is fine, cheating is not.’ he wrote.
Alex Spiro, the attorney representing Twitter, further alleges that Meta had hired ‘dozens’ of former Twitter employees with access to highly confidential information about the platform, many of whom had ‘improperly retained Twitter documents and electronic devices.’
Carl Tobias, University of Richmond law professor, commented on the situation without providing any definitive conclusions.
“Sometimes lawyers, they threaten but don’t follow through. Or they see how far they can go. That may be the case, but I don’t know that for sure. There may be some value to tying it up in litigation and complicating life for Meta,” Tobias said.
Threads is an app that resembles Twitter but with the ability to post up to 500 characters long and allow for the inclusion of links, photos, and videos. It is also integrated with Instagram to allow users to port across their username and existing network. It is no surprise then that OpenAI’s ChatGPT reached 100 million monthly active users within two months ‒ a trajectory of growth that Threads appears to already be ahead of.
Twitter has demanded that Meta stop using any Twitter trade secrets and highly confidential information or face legal action. It is unclear at this time if the legal threat will lead to litigation. Regardless, the rapid growth of Threads appears to threaten Twitter’s monopoly in the social media world, and so it appears the company is playing its card to try and slow the upstart rival down.