Twitter accuses Microsoft of refusing to pay for tweets and abusing its data access


Washington (CNN) Twitter is accusing Microsoft of abusing its data access privileges to its platform, in the latest sign of social network owner Elon Musk fueling a feud between the two tech companies.

In a three-page letter to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella – and sent by Alex Spiro, Musk’s outside lawyer – Twitter accused Microsoft of overusing its ability to download tweets from the platform, in an alleged breach of the social media company’s terms .

Microsoft products, including Xbox One, Bing, Azure, Power Platform and Microsoft Ads, will have “raised over 26 billion tweets in 2022 alone,” according to the letter, a level of use it said could be considered “excessive or abusive.”

“Our recent review of Microsoft’s activity on the Microsoft Apps indicates that Microsoft may have violated various provisions of the agreement over an extended period of time,” the letter, a copy of which was reviewed by CNN, said, referring to Twitter’s developer agreement. .

The letter also listed a number of other alleged violations, including an apparent failure to provide a purpose for some of Microsoft’s data collection and, in other cases, use of the data related to “automation capabilities” subject to Twitter restrictions.

The letter comes as Twitter races to find ways to increase revenue and cut costs after Musk took on a significant amount of debt to help finance his $44 billion acquisition of the company.

Microsoft refused to pay Twitter to maintain its data access through Twitter’s application programming interface (API) after Twitter erected a paywall seeking to pay for data, according to the letter. The letter called on Microsoft to provide information about its last two years of Twitter API usage, and set a June 7 deadline.

“We heard from a law firm representing Twitter with some questions about our previous use of the free Twitter API. We will review these questions and respond appropriately,” said a Microsoft spokesperson in a statement. “We look forward to continuing our long-term partnership with the company.”

In recent months, Musk has stepped up his criticism of Microsoft as a perceived rival in artificial intelligence development, a field that relies heavily on ingesting publicly available online content such as tweets.

After Twitter announced plans this year to pay for API access — which organizations later learned could cost them as much as $210,000 a month — Microsoft’s ad platform said it would no longer support integration with Twitter.

Musk responded with a tweet so to speak Microsoft had “illegally” used Twitter data to train its AI and warned it was “lawsuit time”. He too accused Microsoft from “shrinking the Twitter database, demonetizing it (removing ads) and then selling our data to others.”

In another tweet earlier this year, Musk blasted OpenAI, the creator of ChatGPT, for “effectively controlled by Microsoft.” Microsoft has invested billions in ChatGPT’s creator OpenAI and integrated ChatGPT into its Bing search engine. But Nadella said in an interview with CNBC this week that Musk’s claim about control is “factually incorrect.”

“We have a non-controlling interest in it, we have a great commercial partnership in it,” Nadella said of OpenAI.

Musk’s goals of Microsoft about its AI investments seems closely connected with his general criticism of existing AI models. Musk has vowed to develop a rival AI he calls “TruthGPT” to counter what he has described as excessive political correctness in mainstream models.

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