Twitter Threatens Legal Action Against Meta Over New App Threads

Twitter Threatens Legal Action Against Meta Over New App Threads

Twitter is contemplating taking legal action against Meta due to its rapidly growing rival app, Threads. Launched to millions on Wednesday, Threads has been presented by Meta executives as a "friendly" alternative to Twitter. While Twitter's Elon Musk acknowledged that competition is acceptable, he accused Meta of cheating. However, Meta has refuted claims made in a legal letter from Twitter alleging that former Twitter employees assisted in the creation of Threads.

According to Meta, over 70 million users have signed up for the new app, whereas Twitter boasts an estimated user base of 350 million, as reported by Statista. Although Threads shares similarities in look and feel with Twitter, including the news feed and reposting features, ideas are not protected under US copyright law. Therefore, Twitter would need to demonstrate that its intellectual property, such as programming code, was unlawfully used to succeed in court. Notably, Meta obtained a patent in 2012 for the "communication of a newsfeed" system used in Facebook.

In a letter sent to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg by Twitter attorney Alex Spiro, as initially reported by news outlet Semafor, Meta is accused of "systematic, wilful, and unlawful misappropriation of Twitter's trade secrets and other intellectual property" in the creation of Threads. Spiro specifically alleges that Meta hired numerous former Twitter employees who had access to Twitter's trade secrets and confidential information, which aided in the development of the "copycat" Threads app. The letter demands that Meta immediately cease using any Twitter trade secrets or highly confidential information, warning of potential legal action if such actions are not taken promptly.

Both Meta and Twitter have been approached by BBC News for comment regarding the situation. Elon Musk responded to a post on Twitter referencing the legal letter, stating that "competition is fine, cheating is not." Meanwhile, Meta spokesperson Andy Stone posted on Threads that none of the Threads engineering team comprises former Twitter employees.

Sarah Kunst, managing director at venture capital firm Cleo Capital, suggests that Threads could provide a "brand-safe environment" for current Instagram advertisers who are willing to allocate some budget and assess the outcome. Although the initial surge in users—reaching 30 million—may be a result of curiosity, Kunst anticipates steady growth, citing the app's ease of cross-posting to platforms like Instagram.

Both Musk and Zuckerberg have acknowledged the rivalry surrounding Threads, which is connected to Instagram but functions as a standalone app. Upon Threads' launch in 100 countries, Zuckerberg broke his over 11-year silence on Twitter to share a highly popular meme featuring two nearly identical Spider-Man figures pointing at each other, symbolizing a standoff. Shortly after, as the term "Threads" trended globally on his platform, Musk stated, "It is infinitely preferable to be attacked by strangers on Twitter than indulge in the false happiness of hide-the-pain Instagram."

Twitter CEO Linda Yaccarino tweeted on Thursday that while the platform is often imitated, it can never be duplicated. Both Meta and Twitter have undergone significant layoffs this year, with Meta announcing staff reductions of around 10,000 in April. Twitter experienced waves of layoffs resulting in a substantial loss of its 7,500 employees, with estimates reaching as high as 80%, following Musk's takeover in October of the previous year.

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