Twitter rival Threads is here, but the EU is out of the loop

6 Jul 2023

Image: © Rafael Henrique/

The app has had a successful worldwide launch, but the large amount of data it demands from users might be preventing an EU launch.

The next challenger for Twitter has arrived, with Meta’s new app – Threads – getting millions of sign-ups hours after launch.

The app has been in development since at least 2019 and was spotted on the App Store earlier this week for pre-order. The launch has been successful, with Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg claiming Threads had 5m sign-ups in the “first four hours” and later announced that there had been 10m sign-ups in the first seven hours.

The app has launched in 100 countries, but the EU appears to be a Threads dead-zone. There are reports that the app has launched in the UK, so the issue is likely related to EU data laws and the data Threads collects from its users.

Meta and its affiliated apps have faced multiple court cases and various fines in the EU due to GDPR breaches. Earlier this week, the EU’s top court ruled against Meta’s defence for its advertising practices. The ruling could give more authority to EU watchdogs to investigate future GDPR breaches.

Meta has not responded to a request for comment on when – or if – Threads will launch in Ireland and the EU.

A Twitter challenger

The app is connected to Instagram and shows similarities to Twitter in terms of style and function. Meta said the app is a space for users to share “real-time updates and public conversations”.

“Our vision with Threads is to take what Instagram does best and expand that to text, creating a positive and creative space to express your ideas,” Meta said in a blog post.

The app has accessibility features that are connected to Instagram, such as screen-reader support and “AI-generated image descriptions”. There are also plans to make Threads compatible with “open, interoperable social networks”.

Mastodon CEO Eugen Rochko showed support for the launch, largely due to the plans for interoperability with other networks.

“We have been advocating for interoperability between platforms for years,” Rochko said in a blog post. “This is a clear victory for our cause, hopefully one of many to come.”

The launch comes during a difficult time for Twitter. Last week, the site imposed limits to the number of tweets accounts can see in a day. It is unclear if these limits will be changed in the future or how long this “temporary measure” will go on for.

The limits sparked an intense reaction by some Twitter users, with tags such as Twitterdown and RIP Twitter spreading on the site last weekend.

Privacy concerns

In the days leading up to the launch, some people criticised Threads for the amount of data the app looks set to take from its users. Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey tweeted the privacy information of the app, with the caption “All your Threads are [sic] belong to us”.

The high volume of data Meta takes from its users has been questioned by EU data authorities in the past.

Aaron Mendes, CEO and co-founder of privacy app PrivacyHawk, said Threads’ privacy information discloses the data that Meta might collect from a user, but said it “doesn’t mean they collect it on every person”.

“It depends on how you use the app and what you give them access to,” Mendes said. “But it is a reminder of the depth of data Meta collects on its users and that you are the product when you use any of their services.

“If you will use them and care about your privacy, take the time to go into their privacy settings and select more private settings than the default. And don’t give them access to everything they ask for.”

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic