In a recent development, Elon Musk’s legal representative has accused Microsoft, the owner of Twitter, of misusing the data available on the popular social media platform. The lawyer, Alex Spiro, has demanded an audit from the software giant, highlighting a specific set of alleged infractions committed by Microsoft in accessing information from Twitter’s extensive database of tweets. While the focus of the letter seems narrow, this move could potentially foreshadow more serious developments, given Musk’s previous accusations against Microsoft and its partner OpenAI for “illegally” utilizing Twitter data to develop sophisticated AI systems such as ChatGPT.
The letter, signed by Alex Spiro on behalf of Elon Musk, treads cautiously around the broader concerns but does point out that Microsoft’s agreement with Twitter explicitly prohibits the overuse of data. The agreement restricts actions such as exceeding “reasonable request volume” and engaging in “excessive or abusive usage.” Spiro raises concerns by noting that Microsoft had retrieved over 26 billion tweets in 2022 alone, without providing any contextual information to support these numbers. It is important to understand that training AI systems requires vast amounts of data, especially written text, which AI algorithms analyze to identify patterns and enhance language comprehension and overall knowledge.
However, the letter primarily focuses on a series of vaguely worded allegations. One such allegation is that Microsoft failed to inform Twitter about its intended use of the data in six out of eight Microsoft apps that drew on information from the Twitter database. Another claim made in the letter is that at least one Microsoft app supplied Twitter data to virtual locations that “reference a government entity or agency,” which apparently violates Microsoft’s agreement with Twitter. The agreement explicitly prohibits the retrieval of Twitter data “on behalf of any government-related entity” without prior notification to Twitter, an alleged requirement that Microsoft did not fulfill.
Microsoft’s spokesman, Frank Shaw, responded to the letter by stating that the company would thoroughly review the concerns raised and respond appropriately. Shaw emphasized Microsoft’s commitment to their long-term partnership, without explicitly mentioning Twitter by name. However, he declined to address specific details mentioned in the letter.
Spiro’s letter includes a demand for Microsoft to provide a detailed account of the Twitter data it currently possesses or has previously destroyed. Additionally, it requests information on the purpose of each Microsoft app that utilized Twitter information and identifies any government entities that may have used these Microsoft apps, along with whether they received data from Twitter’s database.
As this legal battle between Elon Musk and Microsoft unfolds, the allegations raised carry significant implications for the use of social media data and the development of AI systems. The outcome of this dispute could have far-reaching consequences for the industry and shape the future of data access and utilization in AI research and development.