The tech billionaire cage match between Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk just leapt out of the ring and into the courtroom.
Twitter is threatening to sue Meta, accusing the Facebook and Instagram parent company of poaching Twitter employees and pilfering trade secrets to build its “Twitter killer” app.
On Wednesday Meta debuted Threads, a text-based social media app that mimics Twitter in look and feel.
Twitter lawyer Alex Spiro fired back, alleging “systematic, willful, and unlawful misappropriation of Twitter’s trade secrets and other intellectual property.”
In the letter to Meta CEO Zuckerberg, Spiro alleged Meta hired dozens of former Twitter employees with access to “Twitter’s trade secrets and other highly confidential information.”
“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,” Spiro wrote.
In a statement, Meta spokesman Andy Stone denied Spiro’s charges.
“No one on the Threads engineering team is a former Twitter employee – that’s just not a thing,” he said.
Twitter replied to a request for comment from USA TODAY with an automated poop emoji. Musk, the company’s executive chairman, tweeted: “Competition is fine, cheating is not.”
University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias says Meta will have to take seriously Musk’s threat to sue.
The company’s tendency to copy popular features from competitors could be subject to legal challenge, he said. And litigation could be costly and a distraction as Meta tries to take market share from Twitter with Threads.
Threads is essentially a text-based version of Instagram. It uses your Instagram username and automatically follows the same people you already follow on your Instagram account. You can then customize your profile for Threads.
Posts can be up to 500 characters long and can include links, photos and videos up to 5 minutes in length.
Piggybacking on Instagram, which has more than 2 billion monthly active users, helped Threads quickly gain traction.
Zuckerberg said Thursday that Threads signed up 30 million users in its first day, trouncing would-be Twitter competitors like Bluesky, Mastodon and Post which have tried to capitalize on Twitter’s troubles under Musk but have failed to attract large audiences.