Twitter reportedly accuses Microsoft of violating its data use policy

It said the tech giant violated its agreement for data use 'for an extended period of time.'

CHANDAN KHANNA via Getty Images

Elon Musk's personal lawyer, Alex Spiro, has reportedly sent Microsoft a letter that accuses it of using Twitter API "for unauthorized uses and purposes." According to The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, Spiro wrote that "Microsoft may have been in violation of multiple provisions of the agreement for an extended period of time." In particular, it accuses Microsoft of improperly using Twitter data, such as using more than what it was supposed to and sharing that data with government agencies without permission. Spiro also wrote that Microsoft had declined to pay for its data usage.

Microsoft had used Twitter data via its API for years in several products, including those related to Xbox, Bing and its advertising tools. However, after Twitter ended free access to its API, Microsoft decided to start distancing itself from the website. It removed Twitter from its social media management tool for advertisers, and it also switched off the option to upload screenshots and clips directly to Twitter from Xbox consoles and the Game Bar on Windows. The tech giant didn't explain the reason behind those decisions, but Twitter has been charging organizations up to $50,000 a month to access its new API.

In response to a tweet about Microsoft dropping Twitter from its social media management tool, Elon Musk said: "They trained illegally using Twitter data. Lawsuit time." It's also worth noting that Musk and Microsoft have had a bumpy relationship lately, with the former claiming that the tech giant is controlling its partner OpenAI. Microsoft, which has invested a total of $13 billion in the ChatGPT creator, said the claim was "factually not correct." Musk also told Fox News that he was concerned that ChatGPT "is being trained to be politically correct" and that he was looking to create his own generative AI chatbot called "TruthGPT." He also criticized OpenAI, which he helped start as a non-profit in 2015, for turning into a for-profit business.

It's unclear if this event will culminate into a lawsuit, but Twitter is demanding that Microsoft examine the data use of its apps. Twitter also wants Microsoft to submit a report by June on how much of its data the company has and how it's stored and used. In addition, it wants to know when Microsoft had given government organizations access to its data.

A Microsoft spokesperson told us: "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. We look forward to continuing our long term partnership with the company."

Update 05/19/23 10:23AM ET: Added Microsoft's statement.