Along with today’s dominating technology industry, social media is constantly expanding and allowing greater access to unprecedented amounts of data. Within a matter of seconds, users can interact with each other from across the globe and gain access to detailed information. This ease of access provides many benefits when staying connected with family and friends, accessing breaking news stories, and sharing special moments. However, the internet and social media can be a scary realm if not treated with respect.
Founded in 2006 by Jack Dorsey, Twitter presented a market capitalisation of USD$28.93 billion in 2022. In October 2022, Elon Musk bought the social media platform for USD$44 billion and subsequently designated himself Chief Executive Officer (CE0). Twitter users were not happy. Following the acquisition, the platform lost “nearly half advertising revenue”, and has recently been subjected to a negative cash flow. In November 2022, Musk informed Twitter’s employees that unless they “commit to working long hours at high intensity” they would be leaving the company and those who did not agree to the gruelling hours within a week would be provided with “three months’ severance pay”. Many individuals were enraged by Musk’s harsh approach given the emerging focus on work-life balance and the importance of caring for our mental health.
During the start of 2022, 237.8 million Twitter users were able to generate capital on the platform and this came as a slight increase compared to previous years. Despite the popularity of Twitter’s Tweet function, the number of users is incomparable to social media mammoths Facebook, WhatsApp, and YouTube. One may wonder whether this shocking statistic could render Twitter vulnerable to its competitors. Along with the devastating level of harmful content and inaccurate information, Twitter has been heavily criticised for allegations of harassment and exploitation. Following the formation of Threads, Twitter’s rival, the social media platform my fail to beat its competitors.
Threads, published by Meta Platform in July 2023, is a social media platform that merges with Instagram and allows users to share information, create micro-blogs and stay up to date with news stories. Threads allows users to verify their account via their Instagram at no charge, contrasting to Twitters monthly subscription of $8.00. The novel platform proved extremely popular after its release generated approximately “30 million sign-ups” within its first 24 hours.
Meta’s new platform resulted in intense frustration from Twitter and there has been discussion of possible legal proceedings as Twitter believes Meta applied its trade secrets and infringed on its intellectual property. Alex Spiro, a lawyer for Twitter, explained in a letter addressed to Meta’s CEO that 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”. Mark Zukerberg crowned Threads as the leading platform of modern social media, and Meta is attempting to “build a public conversations app with 1bn+ people”. He then slammed Twitter as it possessed the same opportunity but failed to grasp it.
After downloading Threads and comparing the platform with Twitter, the smooth function and ability to interact with other users proved extremely refreshing compared to Twitter’s recently confusing and unpredictable nature following Musk’s acquisition. The evident issue with Meta’s newest creation is the striking similarity with Twitter and it is not surprising that Twitter is enraged and seeking legal action.
As discussed, Twitter’s legal team may be planning on issuing legal proceedings for the misappropriation of trade secrets, infringement of intellectual property and accessing confidential information about the platform. The issues with such proceedings stem from the requirement for proof of an existing trade secret. The lack of evidence of a trade secret is common within such cases and, if a trade secret does not exist, an infringement is impossible. According to Mark Halligan, “EONA proofs” are required to confirm the existence of a trade secret. The existence, ownership, notice and access to such trade secrets need to be established for a successful misappropriation case, and there are three methods of confirming a misappropriation of trade secrets: unauthorised disclosure, use and acquisition.
Spiro claims that former employees dismissed from Twitter were subsequently hired by Meta. As these former employees were allegedly able to access Twitter’s secrets, Twitter’s legal team proclaim that Meta used this to its advantage when developing Threads; an act that would violate “both state and federal laws” in the United States.
Unsurprisingly, Threads continued to deny any knowledge of Twitter’s trade secrets and ensured the public that Meta did not employ any former Twitter employees. It is common knowledge that Twitter has a record of threating legal action. In 2023, Microsoft was subjected to similar threats after Twitter alleged the company had abused “its API through integration with some of its products”. Hailed for its bravery, Meta continued to release Threads despite the possibility of legal action. Following its release, Elon Musk attacked Meta stating “competition is fine, cheating is not”, and he is correct in saying so. However, it seems almost impossible for Twitter to succeed in its case against Threads unless damning evidence becomes known.
As mentioned earlier, internet users can access elevated levels of data instantly. One major concern with Meta’s new creation is the data it stores, uses and releases. Meta continues to monitor data to a high standard on Messenger, Instagram and Facebook but fails to uphold the same protection with Threads. Subsequentially, some Threads users may lack control over their data as the platform provides third parties with access without constraints from Meta. The challenge with third parties gaining access to users’ data is the differing or lack of privacy policies. Once data is shared with a third-party service, Meta does not retain control and it can be subjected to ambiguous and dangerous privacy rules. As a result, people may not be certain about how their data is being used or stored on the internet.
To conclude, Threads has proved extremely popular and Twitter is under significant stress from the increased competition. Following Elon Musk’s acquisition, Twitter’s revenue has decreased significantly, and users have highlighted the unpredictability of the platform. However, Twitter’s threat of legal action appears to be out of reach given its history of threats to companies such as Microsoft. One thing is for certain, if Twitter fails to compete with its rival, the platform my cease to exist.