from the everything-is-stupid dept
Just fucking fight it out already.
The whole stupid “cage match” brawl thing was started when Meta execs made some (accurate) cracks about Elon’s management of Twitter, and Elon couldn’t handle it. But, now with the launch of Meta’s Threads, Elon feels the need to send a ridiculously laughable legal threat to Meta.
Elon’s legal lapdog, Alex Spiro, dashed off a threat letter so dumb that even his employer, Quinn Emanuel — who is famous among powerful law firms for having no shame at all — should feel shame.
Dear Mr. Zuckerberg:
I write on behalf of X Corp., as successor in interest to Twitter, Inc. (“Twitter”). Based on recent reports regarding your recently launched “Threads” app, Twitter has serious concerns that Meta Platforms (“Meta”) has engaged in systemic, willful, and unlawful misappropriation of Twitter’s trade secrets and other intellectual property.
Lol, wut? Threads is like a dozen other microblogging type services. There are no “trade secrets” one needs to misappropriate from Twitter. I mean, seriously, who in their right mind thinks that Meta with billions of users of Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp is learning anything from Twitter, beyond “don’t do the dumbshit things Elon keeps doing.”
Over the past year, Meta has hired dozens of former Twitter employees. Twitter knows that these employees previously worked at Twitter; that these employees had and continue to have access to Twitter’s trade secrets and other highly confidential information; that these employees owe ongoing obligations to Twitter; and that many of these employees have improperly retained Twitter documents and electronic devices. With that knowledge, Meta deliberately assigned these employees to develop, in a matter of months, Meta’s copycat “Threads” app with the specific intent that they use Twitter’s trade secrets and other intellectual property in order to accelerate the development of Meta’s competing app, in violation of both state and federal law as well as those employees’ ongoing obligations to Twitter.
Let’s break this one down, because holy shit, is it ever stupid. The reason that Meta was able to hire a bunch of former Twitter employees most likely had to do with the fact that Elon recklessly fired 85% of the existing staff, and did so willy nilly, destroying tons of institutional knowledge and knowhow. And yet, Musk claimed he had to get rid of these employees because they were not hardcore, and were useless to Twitter. Yet, now we’re being told they are somehow invaluable to Threads? That doesn’t even pass the most basic laugh test.
The claim that “these employees have improperly retained Twitter documents and electronic devices” is particularly ridiculous, given that I’ve spoken to many, many, many ex-Twitter employees who have spent months trying to return their laptops, without Twitter bothering to respond to them at all. To use that against those employees is ridiculous.
And, really, what fucking “trade secrets” or “intellectual property’ do Spiro and Musk honestly think that any former employees took with them to Meta? How to competently run a microblogging service? This is all bluff and bluster from Elon, who knows he’s fucked up Twitter and is scared of any competition.
On top of that, assuming any of those employees are in California, then state law for the last century and a half has prohibited arguments regarding non-competes or similar, because the state has a stated policy that people should be allowed to be employed. So, to the extent that Twitter thinks it can enforce some sort of quasi-non-compete agreement, that’s just not going to fly.
Update: Also, Meta has now said that none of the small team working on Threads is a former Twitter employee anyway, so the assumptions in the letter are entirely false.
The letter continues:
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 short, even as we’re not paying many of our bills and are desperately short on cash, especially compared to Meta, which has a building full of litigators, we’re ready, able, and willing to file a completely bogus, vexatious lawsuit just to try to annoy you.
Then we get to the real fear: that Meta might make it easy to recreate your Twitter social graph on threads:
Further, Meta is expressly prohibited from engaging in any crawling or scraping of Twitter’s followers or following data. As set forth in Twitter’s Terms of Service, crawling any Twitter services — including, but not limited to, any Twitter websites, SMS, APIs, email notifications, applications, buttons, widgets, ads, and commerce services — is permissible only “if done in accordance with the provisions of the robots.txt file” available at https://twitter.com/robots.txt. The robots.txt file specifically disallows crawling of Twitter’s followers or following data. Scraping any Twitter services is expressly prohibited for any reason without Twitter’s prior consent. Twitter reserves all rights, including but not limited to, the right to seek both civil remedies or injunctive relief without further notice.
So, yeah. This letter is basically Elon publicly admitting he’s scared shitless of Threads and its potential impact on Twitter. This is a “holy shit, this is bad, we’re fucked” kinda letter. Not one from a position of strength. Honestly, this letter makes me think that Threads has a better chance than I initially expected, if Musk is so damn scared of it.
Of course, to date, I’ve seen no indication that Threads was looking to scrape Twitter or enable easy transfer of the Twitter social graph to threads. Of course, lots of third parties often create such tools, and we’ve already seen Elon freak out over tools that helped users find their Twitter social graph on Mastodon, so I guess this is how he competes. By throwing up bogus walls.
That said, Meta can’t really say much here. After all, it set one of the horrible precedents in court regarding scraping data from websites to build services on top of them. To the extent that Twitter actually has any legal power to stop Meta from scraping, that power was given to it via a bad lawsuit that Meta itself started and pushed to completion.
Though, again, there’s been no indication that Meta actually plans to do that. The fact that it’s able to bootstrap its network off of the (much, much, much larger than Twitter) Instagram network suggests it has no need to port Twitter’s social graph over.
Again, this legal threat letter appears to be legal bluster from the much weaker party of the two.
I doubt this turns into an actual legal dispute, though with Elon, you never really know. If it does turn into a live dispute however, assuming that Meta didn’t do something preposterously silly (like asking former Twitter employees to share internal documents), then Meta will destroy this lawsuit easily.
But, you know, if we’re going to see a cage match between these two billionaires, why not just throw this on the undercard as well.
Filed Under: alex spiro, competition, elon musk, employees, intellectual property, mark zuckerberg, scraping, threads, trade secrets
Companies: meta, threads, twitter