Well, that didn’t take long. Less than a day after the splashy launch of Meta’s new Threads app — a Twitter clone that millions of users joined in a matter of hours — Twitter owner Elon Musk signaled that he’s interested in taking Zuckerberg to court over the launch (a move that would, it should go without saying, alter the timing of the face-to-face cage match that both men also seem interested in pursuing against each other).
Semafor first reported the news on Thursday, and you can read the full letter from Twitter lawyer Alex Spiro embedded in two parts in the tweet below. Broadly, its claims include Twitter having an intellectual property rights case that it wants to defend. Spiro’s letter demands, among other things, “that Meta take immediate steps to stop using any Twitter trade secrets or other highly confidential information” that it has derived from the supposed hiring of former Twitter employees.
Spiro accuses Meta of hiring scores of former Twitter employees who “had and continue to have access to Twitter’s trade secrets and other highly confidential information.” Intriguingly, his letter also warns that Meta is prohibited from crawling or scraping any of Twitter’s followers or follower data, which immediately made me think that perhaps there was more than meets the eye to Elon’s drastic steps to rate limit people’s Twitter usage in recent days.
In a post that he shared to (where else?) the new Threads app, Meta spokesperson Andy Stone categorically dismissed the key assertion in the letter from Elon’s lawyer. “No one on the Threads engineering team is a former Twitter employee — that’s just not a thing.”
Twitter vs Threads app: Background
On Thursday, Zuckerberg announced that 30 million people have already joined the Threads app (“Feels like the beginning of something special, but we’ve got a lot of work ahead to build out the app”). Musk, for his part, tweeted in response to a tweet about the potential legal action between the two companies that: “Competition is fine, cheating is not.”
Of course, notwithstanding Stone’s claim that there are no former Twitter employees on the Threads engineering team, that comment above is from the same Elon who dismissively tweeted the equivalent of “good riddance” when his employees started leaving the company in droves (either voluntarily or otherwise):
Meanwhile, the launch of the Threads app comes against the backdrop of widespread dissatisfaction with Musk’s stewardship of Twitter, with Meta finally launching an effort to control the last piece of the social media pie that it’s long ceded to Twitter. For now, though, the experiences of using Twitter and the Threads app are still quite different from each other. With Threads, for example, there are currently no direct messages or feeds containing only the accounts that a user follows.
“For those of you trying to think about what to post here on Threads versus on Instagram,” Instagram head Adam Mosseri wrote in a Threads posting, “my take is it’s less about text versus photos and videos and more about what public conversations you want to have. Do you want to engage in more of a back and forth, Threads makes sense. If not, great, probably Instagram…”
Elon’s threat of a lawsuit against Zuckerberg over the Threads app, meanwhile, comes as millions of people are still getting used to the latter and figuring how to use it, what to post, and whether they like it — and whether they like it enough for it to supplant Twitter.
For now, here’s a sampling of some of our other Threads-related coverage, including commentary about the app’s chances of success.