Twitter Threatens Lawsuit Over Meta’s Threads App

Twitter parent company X Corp. is threatening to sue Meta over its new Threads app as the platform began racking up millions of users upon its Wednesday debut.

A Silicon Valley legal firm representing X Corp. claimed in a letter first reported by Semafor that Meta had “engaged in systematic, willful and unlawful misappropriation of Twitter’s trade secrets and other intellectual property” by poaching its employees.

Threads is a text-based competitor to Twitter that was launched as a companion to Meta’s Instagram platform this week. Given all the chaos that has come with billionaire Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter late last year, some observers consider Threads to be a potential “Twitter killer.”

Musk kicked off his tenure as head of Twitter by slashing the company’s payroll by at least three-quarters, leaving thousands out of a job. Now, some of the former Twitter employees have apparently found work at Meta, according to the letter to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg that was dated Wednesday. Meta is the parent company to Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and several smaller tech platforms.

In a statement, however, Meta pushed back against the accusations, saying that there had been no impropriety.

“No one on the Threads engineering team is a former Twitter employee — that’s just not a thing,” company spokesperson Andy Stone said.

The letter to Zuckerberg had specifically alleged that Meta “deliberately assigned” former Twitter 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.” It instructed his company to “preserve any documents that could be relevant” to the dispute.

Commenting on the legal threat, Musk said in a tweet: “Competition is fine, cheating is not.”

Internal company records obtained by Reuters in October showed that Twitter has been struggling to retain active users, who numbered over 200 million last July, according to The New York Times. (Under Musk, Twitter became a private company and no longer had to publicly divulge such information.)

Zuckerberg said Thursday — from his new app — that he wanted to see Threads “on a clear path to 1 billion” users and “only then think about monetization.”

Threads passed 30 million signups overnight, Zuckerberg said.

Other platforms with the potential to supplant Twitter’s hold on the rapid-fire posting economy have a fraction of that base.

Mastodon has less than 1.5 million active users, Wired reported in February, while Bluesky, which was started by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, has a user base of around 50,000.

Yet the threat of expensive legal action from Twitter may ring hollow, as the company has been repeatedly accused of shirking its bills in recent months. Just this week, a group of former Twitter employees proposed a class action lawsuit alleging the company had failed in its obligation to pay arbitrators’ fees in nearly 900 disputes brought by the ex-workers.

Zuckerberg appeared to regard the launch of Threads as a metaphorical round in his proposed cage match against Musk. He responded with crying-laughing emojis to various users on Threads who brought up the potential fight.

“We’re only in the opening moments of the first round here,” he wrote.

Solidad La Madrid

Solidad has been a reporter since 2017. She writes stories about climate change, environment, COVID-19 pandemic and human rights.

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