Elon Musk’s lawyer sent Mark Zuckerberg a quasi-cease-and-desist letter complaining that Meta poached “dozens of Twitter employees” (whom Musk had fired!) to create the Twitter knock-off Threads, and even implies that Zuckerberg played a role in Twitter’s recent glitches.

It is fairly standard procedure in the tech industry to steal someone else’s idea and repackage it as a copycat product. And Twitter has been one of the biggest offenders in this practice — their now-defunct livestreaming video product Periscope was a shameless ripoff of the indie app Meerkat, and the audio platform Twitter Spaces is also pretty similar to the brief pandemic hit Clubhouse. Twitter has no business being upset about copycat products!

But Twitter is surely upset over the runaway success of Facebook/Meta’s new Twitter copycat called Threads. Threads enjoyed a reported 30 million signups in less than 24 hours after it launched. (And just look at fired Twitter director of product management Esther Crawford enjoying rubbing Elon's face in it with the tweet above.) Threads probably benefited from good timing more than anything, because of Musk’s recent assholery toward major accounts, and this weekend’s "rate limit" snafus that drove many users to look for alternatives.

Now Twitter is claiming that Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg stole Twitter’s trade secrets to build Threads, and even implies without evidence that Meta caused Twitter glitches this weekend. Semafor reports that Musk’s attorney Alex Spiro sent a nasty and vaguely threatening letter to Mark Zuckerberg accusing Meta of “systematic, willful, and unlawful misappropriation of Twitter’s trade secrets and other intellectual property.”

You can read the full letter here. It adds the complaint that Zuckerberg poached laid-off Twitter employees.

“Over the last year, Meta has hired dozens of former Twitter employees,” the attorney Spiro writes. “These employees had and continued to have access to Twitter’s trade secrets.” Well, pal, you fired thousands of them and allegedly stiffed some out of their severance, so that would be an entirely predictable outcome.

But Meta claims no such thing happened. “No one on the Threads engineering team is a former Twitter employee,” Meta communications director Andy Stone posted to Threads. “That’s just not a thing.”

The letter also indicates  — without evidence, and without coming out and saying it  — that Meta’s scraping was somehow responsible for Twitter's very glitchy “rate limit exceeded” weekend. Spiro further threatens that “Meta is expressly prohibited from engaging in any crawling or scraping of Twitter’s followers or follower data.”

The “rate limit” excuses always seemed far-fetched, it seems stiffed vendors and reduced headcount are more likely Twitter’s back-end problem. And maybe there are some AI hucksters out there scraping Twitter’s text to create their language models. But if the above theory is true that Zuckerberg scraped Twitter right before the Threads launch to make Twitter look like a shittier product, well, that would just be hilarious.

Though consider another theory: Maybe if Musk has a lawsuit against Zuckerberg, then he could use it as an excuse to get out of that supposed cage match they’re planning, citing “pending litigation” as a reason to not show up.

Related: Meta's 'Twitter Killer,' Called Threads, Launches Thursday [SFist]

Image: PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 16: Chief Executive Officer of SpaceX and Tesla and owner of Twitter, Elon Musk attends the Viva Technology conference dedicated to innovation and startups at the Porte de Versailles exhibition centre on June 16, 2023 in Paris, France. Elon Musk is visiting Paris for the VivaTech show where he gives a conference in front of 4,000 technology enthusiasts. He also took the opportunity to meet Bernard Arnaud, CEO of LVMH and the French President. Emmanuel Macron, who has already met Elon Musk twice in recent months, hopes to convince him to set up a Tesla battery factory in France, his pioneer company in electric cars. (Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images)