Twitter Claims Microsoft Is Not Paying for Tweets and Is Abusing its Access to Data

May 23, 2023
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Stephanie Bedard-Chateauneuf
Twitter has accused Microsoft of abusing its data access privileges on its platform, the latest hint that the social network's owner, Elon Musk, has sparked a spat between the two major companies.

Twitter has accused Microsoft of abusing its data access privileges on its platform, the latest hint that the social network's owner, Elon Musk, has sparked a spat between the two major companies.

In a three-page letter addressed by Alex Spiro, Musk's outside lawyer, to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Twitter accuses Microsoft of abusing its power to download tweets from the network, which is a violation of the social media company's policies.

According to the letter, Microsoft products such as Xbox One, Bing, Azure, Power Platform, and Microsoft Ads "retrieved over 26 billion tweets in 2022 alone," a level of usage that might be considered "excessive or abusive."

The letter also detailed a number of other alleged infractions, such as an apparent failure to state a purpose for some of Microsoft's data collecting and, in other circumstances, usage of the data in connection with "automation capabilities" that are subject to Twitter limits.

The letter comes as Twitter is scrambling to find ways to increase revenue and decrease costs after Musk took on massive debt to help finance the company's $44 billion acquisition.

According to the letter, Microsoft declined to pay Twitter to preserve data access via Twitter's application programming interface (API) after Twitter constructed a paywall attempting to charge for data. The letter demanded that Microsoft give information on its Twitter API usage for the previous two years, with a deadline of June 7.

Musk has recently increased his criticism of Microsoft as a perceived competitor in artificial intelligence development, an area that mainly relies on consuming publicly available online content such as tweets.

After Twitter announced plans to charge for API access this year, which companies later discovered might cost them up to $210,000 per month, Microsoft's advertising platform stated it would no longer allow integration with Twitter.

Musk responded by tweeting that Microsoft had "illegally" utilized Twitter data to train its AI and that it was "lawsuit time." He also accused Microsoft of "ripping off the Twitter database, demonetizing (removing ads), and then selling our data to others."

Earlier this year, Musk slammed OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, for being "effectively controlled by Microsoft." Microsoft has invested billions in OpenAI, the originator of ChatGPT, and has integrated it into its Bing search engine. However, in an interview with CNBC this week, Nadella stated that Musk's claim about control is "factually not correct."

Musk's critique of Microsoft's AI efforts appears to be tied to his general criticism of present AI models. Musk has promised to create an alternative AI called "TruthGPT" to fight what he terms "excessive political correctness" in current models.