Twitter threatens to sue Meta over Threads — what you need to know

Twitter vs. Threads
(Image credit: Shutterstock / Tom's Guide)

After 24 hours marked by remarkable growth, Meta’s Threads is facing a legal challenge from the platform it’s seemingly aiming to replace.

As first revealed by Semafor, Twitter lawyer Alex Spiro sent a letter to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg revealing the company’s “serious concerns” that Meta “has engaged in systematic, willful, and unlawful misappropriation of Twitter’s trade secrets and other intellectual property.”

As evidence for this, the letter claims Meta hired “dozens of former Twitter employees” who “had and continue to have access to Twitter’s trade secrets and other highly confidential information.” The note alleges that Meta “deliberately assigned” said employees to develop “Meta’s copycat ‘Threads’ app.”

The letter says that Twitter could seek “both civil remedies and injunctive relief” if the matter is not resolved.

On Twitter, Elon Musk responded to someone sharing a link to the Semafor piece by stating that “competition is fine, cheating is not.”

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

Existential threat

When Mark Zuckerberg last gave a status update on signups 18 hours ago, Threads had reached 30 million users. For comparison, Twitter is estimated to have about 330 million. 

That’s a significant lead, but it’s been around for 17 years — and at the time of Zuckerberg’s last status report, Threads had been open for under 17 hours

It’s not inconceivable, therefore, that Threads could have more active userbase than Twitter within the month given its direct link to Instagram with its billion-plus users.

A lawsuit could put a spanner in the works. Only Meta and Twitter know the ins-and-outs of the claims and counterclaims, though employees moving between Silicon Valley giants isn’t especially unusual. And it’s perhaps even more expected in this case, given Twitter forced around half of its employees to look for new jobs within days of Musk taking over.

The similarities between the two apps is something that’s widely acknowledged, however — and seemingly even by Zuckerberg himself. On Threads launch day, the Meta founder tweeted for the first time in 13 years with the well-known ‘duplicate Spider-Mans pointing at each other’ meme. 

Indeed, ahead of launch, it was reported that Meta chief product officer Chris Cox told employees that what would eventually become Threads was “our response to Twitter”.

“We’ve been hearing from creators and public figures who are interested in having a platform that is sanely run, that they believe that they can trust and rely upon for distribution,” he reportedly added.  

Not jumped in yet? You can find out what Threads is like from our liveblog of the first 24 hours.

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Alan Martin

Freelance contributor Alan has been writing about tech for over a decade, covering phones, drones and everything in between. Previously Deputy Editor of tech site Alphr, his words are found all over the web and in the occasional magazine too. When not weighing up the pros and cons of the latest smartwatch, you'll probably find him tackling his ever-growing games backlog. Or, more likely, playing Spelunky for the millionth time.