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Threads runs into Twitter’s legal threats, data privacy fears in EU

Gelo Gonzales

This is AI generated summarization, which may have errors. For context, always refer to the full article.

Threads runs into Twitter’s legal threats, data privacy fears in EU

Zuckerberg pokes fun at Threads being similar to Twitter in his first tweet since 2012

Screenshot from Mark Zuckerberg/Twitter

Twitter accuses Meta of hiring its former employees who hold trade secrets to build Threads. Meta also puts on hold the new app's launch in the EU, which has firm and actively enforced data privacy laws

MANILA, Philippines – Twitter has threatened to sue Meta over its new app, the Twitter-like Threads, which launched on Thursday, July 6. 

Semafor was first to report the news, which obtained a letter sent to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg by Twitter lawyer Alex Spiro. 

Spiro accused Meta of hiring former Twitter employees who he said had and continue to have access to the company’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. 

Twitter owner Elon Musk tweeted, “Competition is fine, cheating is not,” replying to a post about the letter. 

Twitter CEO Linda Yaccarino also tweeted, “We’re often imitated – but the Twitter community can never be duplicated.” 

Zuckerberg was in a more jocular mood, tweeting a very popular meme fit for the issue of Threads and Twitter being extremely similar. It was the CEO’s first tweet since January 19, 2012.

Does Twitter have enough ammo to pursue the case? Stanford law professor Mark Lemley, in a Reuters report, said Twitter would need much more detail. “The mere hiring of former Twitter employees (who Twitter itself laid off or drove away) and the fact that Facebook created a somewhat similar site is unlikely to support a trade secrets claim,” Lemley said. 

In a CNN report, University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias said this could be part of a plan to slow down Meta and its new app. “Sometimes lawyers, they threaten but don’t follow through. Or they see how far they can go…. There may be some value to tying it up in litigation and complicating life for Meta.”

No go in the EU 

One market where Twitter won’t be threatened for the time being, however, is the European Union, which has a firm and actively enforced data privacy regime under the GDPR, and the newer Digital Services Act and Digital Markets Act. Threads did not launch in the EU on Thursday, and no date has been announced when it might be available in the bloc. 

TechCrunch, which called the app a “privacy nightmare” wrote: “Bringing Meta’s surveillance ads business into compliance with EU law is going to require a sea-change in how it operates – one which does not appear to be its plan with Threads, given it’s presenting more of the same data-grabbing attention farming that’s gained Mark Zuckerberg’s empire such a toxic rep it had to undergo an expensive corporate rebrand to Meta in recent years.” 

Fast growth as a result of Twitter’s controversial moves

Within 18 hours of its launch, Threads amassed 30 million sign ups, making it a clear threat to Twitter, which has been seen to have alienated users, with its recent moves to limit the number of tweets users can see, and requiring users to be verified to use the tool Tweetdeck. A day before Threads’ launch, Twitter rolled back one of these new rules, silently removing the log-in requirement to view tweets. 

Twitter has been seen devolving into an unstable platform since Musk acquired it, requiring monthly payments for checkmark verification, gutting its trust and safety teams, and cutting off press access, replying with poop emojis to media sending a message to its old email. 

A financial analyst, Angelo Zino, quoted by Forbes, upgraded his stock outlook for Meta, which the site estimated could mean Meta’s valuation growing from $755 billion to over $900 billion. 

Zino also said how Threads’ launch was timely as Twitter introduced controversial changes: “Meta timed the launch well given a slew of issues at Twitter since Musk’s takeover and appetite for many to have an alternative option.” –

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Gelo Gonzales

Gelo Gonzales is Rappler’s technology editor. He covers consumer electronics, social media, emerging tech, and video games.