() — Twitter threatened Meta with a lawsuit after the successful launch of its direct rival Threads, in perhaps the clearest sign yet that the Elon Musk-owned platform sees the new app as a competitive threat.
On Wednesday, a lawyer representing Twitter sent Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Meta, a letter accusing the company of stealing trade secrets through the hiring of former Twitter employees.
The news of the letter was initially reported by Semafor, but a person familiar with the matter confirmed its authenticity to .
The letter from Alex Spiro, an outside lawyer for Musk, alleges that Meta has engaged in “systematic, willful, and unlawful misappropriation of Twitter’s trade secrets and other intellectual property.”
The letter goes on to mention that Meta hired former Twitter employees who “improperly withheld Twitter documents and electronic devices” and that Meta “knowingly” involved these workers in the development of Threads.
“Twitter intends to strictly enforce its intellectual property rights,” Spiro continued, “and demands that Meta take immediate action to stop using Twitter trade secrets or other highly sensitive information.”
Meta spokesperson Andy Stone strongly rejected the claims in the letter. “Nobody on the Threads engineering team is a former Twitter employee, that’s not a problem,” he said on the new platform.
In the months since Musk acquired Twitter for $44 billion, the social network has faced competition from a growing number of similar smaller platforms, including decentralized social network Mastodon and Bluesky, an alternative backed by Twitter’s former CEO, Jack Dorsey. But Twitter had not threatened any of those initiatives with litigation.
In that sense, unlike other Twitter rivals, Threads experienced rapid growth. Zuckerberg reported 30 million registered users in the first day of the app’s launch. As of Thursday afternoon, Threads was the number one free app on the iOS App Store.
The legal threat may not necessarily lead to litigation, but it could be part of a strategy to rein in Meta, said Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond.
“Sometimes lawyers threaten but don’t follow through. Or they see how far they can go. That may be the case, but I don’t know for sure,” Tobias told . And he added: “They may be looking to tie him up to litigation and make life difficult for Meta.”