While Meta’s new Twitter clone Threads has been gathering momentum over the past 24 hours, and even dominating Twitter’s own trends charts, Twitter owner Elon Musk has been uncharacteristically quiet about the rival platform, which, given his past public criticisms of potential competitors, has been particularly odd.
This is likely why – today, Twitter’s parent company X Corp has launched proceedings against Meta over the Twitter clone app, with X Corp accusing Meta of poaching ex-Twitter employees, as well as ‘systematic, willful and unlawful misappropriation of Twitter’s trade secrets and other intellectual property.’
Which I can’t imagine is going to stand up in any court, but nevertheless.
As reported by Semafor, X Corp says that Meta has hired dozens of former Twitter employees to work on the project, many of whom had proprietary knowledge of Twitter’s inner workings. The filing also alludes to Meta crawling and/or scraping Twitter’s platform as another potential growth element.
As per the filing:
“Twitter intends to strictly enforce its intellectual property rights, and demands that Meta take immediate steps to stop using any Twitter trade secrets or other highly confidential information. Twitter reserves all rights, including, but not limited to, the right to seek both civil remedies and injunctive relief without further notice to prevent any further retention, disclosure, or use of its intellectual property by Meta.”
In response, Meta has said that the claims are baseless, and that no former Twitter staff are working on Threads.
Though it may be less about evidence and more about gumming up the process, and potentially forcing Meta to slow down its development of Threads as a result of pending legal action. That also seems unlikely to work – but Musk and Co. have always been pretty quick to jump to legal action, and have seen relatively high level of success, in so far as impacting competitors’ operations.
Competition is fine, cheating is not— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 6, 2023
Of course, there are various legal complexities at play here, and I don’t have the requisite expertise to suggest that Twitter’s action can be dismissed outright. But based on the wording of the document, and the publicly available info, it doesn’t seem like this will hold up, at least, not to the degree that it could stop Meta from developing Threads into a more viable competitor for Twitter’s offering.
But it does indicate that Musk is, at the least, concerned that Threads could pose a real threat to Twitter’s business.
Which it pretty clearly can, and it’ll be interesting to see how Meta looks to respond to the case, and whether it does indeed slow Meta’s development on this front.
Worth noting that no legal action has ever succeeded in suing a platform over a non-patented functionality, be it stories, short-form video, news feed, etc. These become embedded behaviors, common expectations among social media users, and as a result, they establish new norms in usage, which can then justifiably be replicated under fair competition laws.
X Corp’s filing is more about ‘trade secrets’, which is a bit more vague, as well as data usage, but it’s hard to see how any of these elements have played a part in Threads’ development.