Twitter, the social media giant currently owned by Elon Musk, has officially accused Microsoft of improper data usage. In a letter addressed to Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, the company alleges Microsoft violated their data agreement and refused to compensate Twitter for the usage.
The letter, revealed by The New York Times, claims Microsoft excessively used Twitter data and shared this data with government agencies without obtaining permission. “Microsoft may have been in violation of multiple provisions of the agreement for an extended period of time,” stated Alex Spiro, Elon Musk’s personal lawyer, in the letter. This letter might signal Twitter’s intent to charge Microsoft for its data.
Elon Musk, who purchased Twitter for $44 billion in 2022, has been vocal about the company’s financial situation, claiming the necessity for the platform to generate profits. This urgency has led to the implementation of new subscription products and increased charges for developers to access its stream of tweets.
The SpaceX and Tesla CEO publicly denounced Microsoft last month, accusing the tech company of illegally using Twitter’s data to train its AI technologies. “Lawsuit time,” Musk tweeted, indicating a potential legal battle.
Microsoft retorted by stating it doesn’t currently pay for Twitter data. Frank Shaw, a Microsoft spokesperson, confirmed receipt of Twitter’s letter and promised to address the issue. “We look forward to continuing our long-term partnership with the company,” Shaw said.
The relationship between Musk and Microsoft has been strained of late. Musk has openly criticized Microsoft over its control of OpenAI, the startup behind the ChatGPT chatbot, which Musk co-founded in 2015. Microsoft, having invested $13 billion in OpenAI, disputes this characterization.
Additionally, Microsoft announced last month it would not pay for access to Twitter’s data, and decided to exclude Twitter from its advertising platform. This platform is used by advertisers to manage their social media accounts, including Twitter.
Data usage by AI technologies has become a contentious topic recently, with several organizations, including Twitter and Reddit, voicing concerns. These companies argue that the latest wave of AI technologies, including Microsoft’s Bing chatbot and OpenAI’s ChatGPT, have been developed using their digital data without adequate compensation.
Musk went as far as cutting off OpenAI’s access to Twitter’s data last December, believing the $2 million per year OpenAI paid for the data was insufficient.
The letter to Microsoft’s CEO doesn’t specify whether Twitter will take legal action or demand financial compensation. However, it demands compliance with Twitter’s developer agreement and data use evaluation from eight of Microsoft’s apps.
In addition, the letter demands a report by June detailing Microsoft’s Twitter data holdings, its storage and usage, and any access by government-related organizations. Furthermore, it highlights instances of Twitter’s data usage in Microsoft’s Xbox, Bing, and other advertising and cloud computing tools.
Twitter imposes limits on data usage, but the letter accuses Microsoft of accessing Twitter’s data portal over 780 million times and retrieving over 26 billion tweets in 2022 alone, flagrantly violating the “reasonable” usage volume.
The current dispute illuminates the growing tensions between tech giants over data usage, posing new challenges for AI technology development and commercial data sharing. As this saga continues to unfold, it marks another chapter in Elon Musk’s multifaceted engagement with the tech industry.