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Meta Threads And Twitter Trade Secrets

Untangling 'Threads' of the Twitter Vs. Meta Battle Over Trade Secrets

Amrusha Chati

Amrusha Chati

19 July 20236 min read

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Meta Threads and Twitter trade secrets

Instagram's new app, Threads, has quickly become the latest sensation in social media. It was downloaded more than 30 million times in just 16 hours. For context, the highly disruptive ChatGPT was downloaded 1 million times over the first five days of its launch.

The unprecedented growth is due to a mix of curiosity, an easy migration process for Instagram's 1.628 billion users, and a big splash of controversy right off the bat.

We untangle the 'Threads' of this new social media platform and the intellectual property battle brewing between two social media giants, Twitter and Meta.

What is "Threads"?

On 6 July 2023, Instagram launched Threads- a new microblogging site for public conversations.

It allows Instagram users to follow the same people and even migrate their followers. This is a massive draw for influencers. Instagram's verified users are also copied to Threads. Users also need to have an Instagram account to create one on Threads.

But using Meta's Threads is deja vu all the way. The look is Instagram, but the microblogging feel resembles Meta's rival, Twitter. And, Threads doesn't offer direct messaging or trending hashtags. Both are an essential part of Twitter's experience.

The app has become the source of controversy between the two companies. It may also soon lead to a lawsuit over Twitter's trade secrets.

What are trade secrets?

Trade secrets refer to any unique information or knowledge that contributes to the viability or success of a business.

According to the Uniform Trade Secrets Act, a trade secret means "information, including a formula, pattern, compilation, program device, method, technique, or process, that:

(i) derives independent economic value, actual or potential, from not being generally known to, and not being readily ascertainable by proper means by, other persons who can obtain economic value from its disclosure or use, and

(ii) is the subject of efforts that are reasonable under the circumstances to maintain its secrecy."

From Google's search algorithm to Coca-Cola's original formula, trade secrets are precious intellectual property.

Why is Twitter trying to sue Meta?

Given the interface and concept similarities, Threads has also earned the nickname “Twitter Killer.”

Minutes after the launch of Threads, Twitter CEO Elon Musk tweeted:

“Competition is fine, cheating is not”

Soon after, Twitter threatened legal action. It accused Meta of stealing trade secrets in a cease-and-desist letter addressed to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg. In the letter, Twitter claims that it has:

"serious concerns that Meta platforms ("Meta") has engaged in systematic, willful and unlawful misappropriation of Twitter's trade secrets and other intellectual property."

And Twitter thinks Meta pulled off this trade secret theft through Twitter employees, or rather, former employees.

Twitter has faced considerable attrition ever since Elon Musk took over in October 2022. In a few months, Twitter has slashed its headcount by 80%, going from 7,500 employees globally to around 1,800.

And allegedly, Meta used these former Twitter employees and the Twitter trade secrets they knew to create Threads. The letter claims that these former Twitter employees:

“had and continue to have access to Twitter's trade secrets and other highly confidential information...and that many of these employees have improperly retained Twitter documents and electronic devices.”

The letter further alleges that Meta was aware of this and deliberately assigned them to create "Meta's copycat Threads app" using "Twitter trade secrets and other intellectual property."

Twitter claims that this is in violation of state and federal law in the USA.

What comes next for Threads?

Threads could be an important success for its parent company Meta. It has been on shaky ground with layoffs, controversies, and accusations of spreading fake news. So Meta will likely want to ride the unexpected wave of Threads' success for some time.

But Twitter, with a user base of around 350 million, is not likely to let this go easily either.

This means that we are likely to see some fierce rivalry and legal tussles over intellectual property rights between Twitter and Meta in the near future.

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Amrusha is a versatile professional with over 12 years of experience in journalism, broadcast news production, and media consulting. Her impressive career includes collaborating extensively with prominent global enterprises. She garnered recognition for her exceptional work in producing acclaimed shows for Bloomberg, a renowned business news network. Notably, these shows have been incorporated into the esteemed curriculum of Harvard Business School. Amrusha's expertise also encompassed a 4-year tenure as a consultant at Omidyar Network, a leading global impact investing firm. In addition, she played a pivotal role in the launch and content strategy management of the startup Live History India.