Twitter accuses Microsoft of using data in unauthorized ways

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, speaks to CNBC on May 16, 2023.

David A Grogan | CNBC

Twitter accuses Microsoft of using the social media company’s data in unauthorized and never-disclosed ways.

Alex Spiro, a partner at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan and a lawyer for Twitter owner Elon Musk, sent a letter to Microsoft on Thursday making claims that included “potential violations of multiple provisions” of its contract with Microsoft. Twitter on data usage.

It’s the latest rift among tech companies in a growing debate over who owns the data used to train artificial intelligence and machine learning software. The New York Times First reported In the letter, there was a copy of it Received Via CNBC.

After Musk led the purchase of Twitter in October and appointed himself CEO, the company began charging for use of its application programming interface (API), which enables developers to embed tweets and access Twitter data into their software and services.

The API was previously free to use for certain researchers, partners and developers who agreed to Twitter’s terms. Twitter API-driven apps include Hootsuite, Sprout Social, and Sprinklr.

Last month, Microsoft “refused to pay even a discounted price for continued access to Twitter’s APIs and content,” according to a letter Spiro sent to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and the company’s board.

As of April, Microsoft had at least five products that used the Twitter API, including Azure cloud, Bing search engine and Power Platform low-code application-development tools, Spiro wrote.

The agreement also restricts the use of Twitter’s programming interfaces. However, for one of the Microsoft services that uses Twitter data, Spiro wrote, “directly stating that the account information would allow its customers to ‘circumvent blocking limits.'”

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A Microsoft spokesperson acknowledged receipt of the letter and told CNBC the company will review it and “respond appropriately.”

“Today we received some questions from a law firm representing Twitter about their prior use of the free Twitter API,” the spokesperson said in an email. “We look forward to continuing our long-standing partnership with the company.”

Musk has been openly critical of Microsoft’s strained relationship with OpenAI, the developer of chatbot ChatGBT. Musk was an early supporter of OpenAI, but the company has raised billions of dollars from Microsoft, embedding its AI technology into many major products.

“Microsoft has a very strong opinion, if not direct control, of OpenAI at this point,” Musk told CNBC in an interview this week. Nadella recently challenged Musk’s claim in an interview with CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin, saying Microsoft has a “non-controlling interest” in the startup.

Spiro did not name OpenAI or mention its ChatGPT and DALL-E applications or larger language models in the letter. He pressed Microsoft for details on “any token pooling implemented in Microsoft apps, the period(s) in which such token pooling occurred, and the number of tokens pooled.”

Kasturi and Nadella later had other connections.

Last year, Musk reached out to Nadella while raising money for his Twitter purchase, according to text messages made public through court filings. Nadella wrote in a text to Musk, “Definitely following up on team feedback!” Groups is a chat application from Microsoft.

Read the full letter from Twitter to Microsoft here.

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