A hot potato: Elon Musk’s new reign at Twitter continues to bring chaos, uncertainty and weirdness to data-driven tech businesses. Now, the man that wants to go to Mars (while being unable to pay suppliers here on Earth) is threatening Microsoft for a seemingly excessive use of “precious” Twitter data in its apps.
Alex Spiro, who has been Elon Musk’s personal lawyer for several years now, has sent a letter to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella on behalf of Twitter. The letter claims that the Redmond corporation abused its relationship with the crumbling social network, violating Twitter’s development agreement “for an extended period of time.”
First reported by the New York Times, the letter states that Microsoft has used Twitter’s standard developer API “free of charge” for a bunch of its products and services, including Xbox One Social, Bing Pages, Azure, Global Ads, and others. Redmond took advantage of Twitter data to generate “tens of billions of dollars” in revenue, Spiro said, at least up until last month.
In April, Twitter’s supreme, whimsical ruler Elon Musk asked Microsoft to start paying thousands of dollars to keep using the previously free API, which according to Spiro is a “discounted rate” for continued access to Twitter’s social chattering. Microsoft declined the offer, choosing to retire Twitter access from its apps instead.
Microsoft is now in violation of Twitter’s developer agreement, Spiro’s letter said, as a “recent review” of the company’s activity has seemingly highlighted abuse and misuse of such agreement for an extended period of time. Redmond exceeded the rate limits on use of the Twitter API, Spiro said, accessing the programming interface over 780 million times to retrieve over 26 billion tweets in 2022 alone.
Redmond also “appears” to have used Twitter data for unauthorized uses and purposes, the lawyer said, supplying public tweets to third-party entities (including government agencies). In April, Musk suggested that Microsoft had abused Twitter access to train large language models and generative algorithms such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT, in which Microsoft invested tens of billions of dollars.
Alex Spiro is now asking Microsoft to provide details about how the company used Twitter’s data and what third-party organizations had access to such data, with different reports for each app and no later than June 7, 2023. Meanwhile, Microsoft spokesman Frank Shaw said the company will review Twitter’s questions while looking forward to continuing their long-term partnership with the social network. Starting to pay for Twitter’s data, however, doesn’t seem to be an option on the table.