At risk of seeing his already smouldering NZ$75.6 billion investment go completely up in flames, Elon Musk has fired a legal warning at his fellow billionaire and possible fighting partner Mark Zuckerberg.

Meta launched Threads yesterday — an app that everyone can see bears more than a passing similarity to Musk’s relatively recent purchase of Twitter. Within 17 hours, Threads had 30 million users. For context, Twitter has reached around 330 million users in 17 years.

Before the day was out, Twitter had sent a letter to Mark Zuckerberg threatening legal action, shared by Semafor

“Twitter has serious concerns that Meta Platforms (‘Meta’) has engaged in systematic, willful, and unlawful misappropriation of Twitter’s trade secrets and other intellectual property,” wrote Twitter lawyer Alex Spiro.

The evidence for this chiefly comes from Meta hiring “dozens of former Twitter employees” who “had and continue to have access to Twitter’s trade secrets and other highly confidential information.” 

(Sidenote: it’s pretty common for tech workers to move between Silicon Valley giants, and even more likely if you sack half your workforce. But there we are.)

The note then alleges that Meta “deliberately assigned” former employees with insider information to develop “Meta’s copycat ‘Threads’ app.” 

That’s a charge that Meta denies, with spokesperson Andy Stone writing on said “copycat” app that “no one on the Threads engineering team is a former Twitter employee”.

But the similarities between the two apps are pretty clear. So clear, in fact, that even Mark Zuckerberg playfully alluded to it, breaking his 13-year Twitter silence to post that meme of Spider-Man pointing at his body double.

And if there were any doubt, leaked comments from an internal Meta meeting before Threads was Threads seem to confirm it, with the company’s chief product officer Chris Cox reportedly telling employees that the app was “our response to Twitter”.

“We’ve been hearing from creators and public figures who are interested in having a platform that is sanely run,” he added. 

These comments resulted in Musk and Zuckerberg apparently agreeing to a cage match… which kind of backs up and undermines the point about sanity at the same time. After all, who’s the more unhinged: the billionaire who challenges another to a fight, or the billionaire who accepts the invitation?