Elon Musk’s attorney, Alex Spiro, yesterday sent a letter to Microsoft accusing the company of using Twitter APIs in ways that violate Twitter’s policies. Spiro’s letter came about a month after Microsoft stopped using the API rather than pay new fees and Musk threatened to sue Microsoft, claiming it was “illegally using Twitter’s data.”
“As you are no doubt aware, Microsoft has for years used standard Twitter developer APIs free of charge in order to leverage Twitter data and services in key Microsoft products that generate tens of billions of dollars for Microsoft annually,” Spiro wrote. To Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft. Until last month, when it refused to pay even a discounted price for continued access to Twitter APIs and content, Microsoft operated eight separate Twitter APIs, listed below, that appear to provide data and functionality for at least five separate Microsoft products and services, including That’s Xbox One, Bing Pages, Azure, Power Platform, and ads.”
Twitter — which faces numerous lawsuits alleging it has not paid its bills — is asking Microsoft to complete a compliance audit on the use of its API by June 7.
Spiro’s letter said that by signing up to use the Twitter API, Microsoft agreed to comply with the Twitter Rules. “However, our recent review of Microsoft’s activity on Microsoft Apps indicates that Microsoft may have been in violation of multiple provisions of the agreement over a significant period of time,” Spiro wrote.
Microsoft has been accused of exceeding rate limits
One of Spero’s claims is that Microsoft exceeded the Twitter API rate limits. Spiro did not mention a specific limit but said that Twitter prohibits API users from exceeding or circumventing API limits and prohibits use of the Twitter API “in a manner that exceeds a reasonable request size” or that “constitutes excessive or abusive use.”
“Microsoft Apps has accessed Twitter APIs over 780 million times and retrieved over 26 billion tweets in 2022 alone,” he wrote. In fact, for a Microsoft application, Microsoft’s account information explicitly states that it intends to allow its customers to “get around the throttling restrictions.”
When Ars contacted her, Microsoft provided a statement confirming receipt of the letter. “We heard from a law firm representing Twitter some questions about our past use of the free Twitter API. We will review those questions and respond appropriately. We look forward to continuing our long-term partnership with the firm.”
Spiro also alleged that Microsoft “appears to have used the Twitter API for unauthorized uses and purposes.” Microsoft Azure Logic Apps for Fairfax served Twitter content to a number of Microsoft endpoints that reference a government entity or agency, despite the fact that the agreement prohibits the use of Twitter APIs on behalf of “any government-related entity” without first “identification.”[ing] The letter states that all government end-users are on Twitter.
He wrote that Microsoft was required to “disclose and obtain approval for the intended use case of each Microsoft app” and notify Twitter of any material change in those use cases. But the company allegedly “has not identified any use cases for six of the eight Microsoft apps that continued to work as of last month.”
“The agreement also prohibits the registration of multiple applications for “a single use case or use cases that are similar or substantially overlapping.” But Microsoft registered multiple applications for both Bing Pages, ads, and Azure products and services, in clear violation of this provision,” Spiro wrote.
An audit can be a prelude to a lawsuit
Finally, Spiro claims that Microsoft violated Twitter’s rules for automation when using the Power Platform API and ads. “Microsoft API requests for these apps include Twitter actions that are subject to certain automation restrictions, including retweets and direct messages,” he wrote.
The letter audit asked for comprehensive details on how Microsoft has used the Twitter APIs over the past two years, including “identification of any and all government-related entities served by each Microsoft app.” The audit request also seeks a description of how Microsoft uses token pooling and “any other means implemented in Microsoft applications to circumvent Twitter rate limits for Twitter APIs.”
Twitter wants the audit to identify “all Twitter content… that is currently in the possession or control of Microsoft,” provide records describing all Twitter content “that Microsoft maintains through its use of the Twitter APIs, and the manner and form in which that Twitter content was stored, And the way Twitter content has been used by Microsoft.” The Musk-owned company wants details about any Twitter content previously acquired and destroyed by Microsoft and “a description of how to destroy that Twitter content.”
A request for a compliance audit can be a precursor to a lawsuit. “They trained illegally using Twitter data. At the time the lawsuit was filed,” Musk said Tweet on April 19th in response to Microsoft dropping Twitter from its advertising platform rather than pay for the new Twitter API.
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