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Why has Threads, Meta’s answer to Twitter, not launched in the EU?

This photo, taken in New York on Wednesday, July 5, 2023, show the logo for Meta's new app Threads, right, and that of Twitter.
This photo, taken in New York on Wednesday, July 5, 2023, show the logo for Meta's new app Threads, right, and that of Twitter. Copyright AP Photo/Richard Drew
Copyright AP Photo/Richard Drew
By Giulia Carbonaro
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Meta’s new app has been listed in the US and the UK, but has no foreseeable launch date in the EU yet as the company worries about the bloc’s privacy regulations.

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Meta’s fresh new app, Threads, which is expected to become the number one rival of a struggling Twitter under Elon Musk’s leadership, is finally here. If by “here,” you mean pretty much anywhere outside the European Union, that is.

Threads, a text-based conversation app that’s currently linked to Instagram, debuted on the existing social media platform late on Wednesday, attracting over 10 million users in the first few hours of operating in the US and the UK.

But residents of the EU have been excluded from the collective hype, as Meta works out how to have the new app comply with the bloc’s regulatory standards.

Why is Threads not listed in EU countries?

Threads isn’t yet running in the EU - and it might never run, as the bloc has stricter privacy rules than most other countries, and it has given Meta a few headaches to cope with in recent years.

It’s not the EU that blocked the launch of the app, rather it’s Meta who’s being preemptively careful.

Sources close to Meta said that the company isn’t offering the app in the union’s member states because it’s not sure about the requirements set out by the Digital Markets Act, the EU’s new competition rules governing how large online platforms use their market power.

The European Commission is currently discussing the regulations with companies like Meta and is expected to offer more guidance in September.

But even then, it’s unclear whether Threads would respect the EU’s strict privacy requirements. The app has been described as a “privacy nightmare” by tech journalists because, despite being a standalone app, it imports personal data from Instagram.

On its US version, Threads users are informed that it will collect a wide range of their data including health and financial information, browsing histories, location, purchases, contacts, search history and sensitive information.

Advertising information would also be collected from Instagram.

In the EU, this kind of communication between social media platforms has been forbidden. Meta has been previously prevented from launching advertising services on Whatsapp that used data from Facebook or Instagram, and the same won’t fly for Threads either.

It’s unclear whether Threads will adapt to the EU market or it will ever launch in the continent.

In January, Meta was fined over €377 million for lacking a valid legal basis under the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to run behavioural ads on Facebook and Instagram.

Earlier this week, the EU’s top court voted in favour of Germany’s anti-carter watchdog, who had argued that it could take privacy issues into account when considering any antitrust case - delivering yet another blow to Meta.

What does Threads do?

The app has reportedly been in the works since January, but it couldn’t have been rolled out at a more perfect time for Threads to succeed.

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Twitter, which has experienced a slew of controversial changes since Musk took over the company last year, recently faced yet another backlash after limiting the number of tweets that unsubscribed users could see in a day.

Threads is therefore arriving on the scene at a time when many Twitter users may be looking for alternatives. The app allows users to post text, videos, and photos and - unlike Instagram - focuses on real-time conversations.

Threads’ users can publish short posts of up to 500 characters- more than Twitter’s 280- and include links and videos up to 5 minutes’ long. Because it’s connected to other Meta social media platforms, a post on Threads can also be easily shared to Instagram or Facebook.

The app’s feed includes posts from accounts that users follow as well as recommendations for new discoveries, without the option of seeing only the content of accounts that users follow.

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The app is free and, like other Meta’s apps, is funded by advertisement.

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