Meta’s Twitter Clone May Bypass Europe

(Photo credit: JD Lasica/Flickr)
(Photo credit: JD Lasica/Flickr)

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With Twitter in a complete, um, meltdown, it’s only natural to wonder which upstart clone will become its consensus replacement. For habitual scrollers in Europe, the answer won’t be Meta’s new “Threads” platform.

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s new bluebird imitation app is set to launch in the US and UK on Thursday, but its EU launch has been stymied, for now, due to the bloc’s more stringent privacy and data-collecting laws, according to the Irish Independent. That’s certainly not the type of launch-day press Meta was looking for.

Threading the Needle

The launch of Threads is the ultimate story for Meta’s Facebook platform, featuring the two most essential components of any narrative about the social-media giant. First, it’s a textbook example of Meta’s patented clone-and-kill strategy, copying and repackaging the key features of a rival platform in hopes of siphoning its users (see: ‘Stories’ copying Snapchat, Reels copying TikTok, and Facebook copying Myspace, Friendster, and, um, ConnectU-née-HarvardConnection). For all its warts, Twitter, according to a New York Times report earlier this week, has long been a white whale in Zuckerberg’s crosshairs — a competitor that, despite a relatively small user base, has in practice become a far more relevant hub in the internet information ecosystem than the Facebook mothership could ever hope to be. With Twitter on the ropes, now is finally the logical time to strike.

Secondly, like Meta’s Facebook and Instagram — and really all social platforms — it’s an out-and-out data play, a mechanism for mass surveillance of potential consumers, and micro-targeted advertising masked behind posts and likes and shares. So of course Zuck loves it! But compliance with EU rules is forcing him to hold off on launching entirely:

  • At the heart of the matter is Meta’s desire to use the data — including financial information, health data, location data, and search history — it’s already collected on users from Facebook and Instagram to sell micro-targeted ads on Threads. Such data intermingling is allowed in the US and the UK, though its legality is murkier in the EU.
  • Citing a lack of clarity in the EU’s Digital Markets Act, Meta has preemptively refrained from launching Threads in the EU, sources told the Irish Independent. It is now unclear when or if the service will launch in the bloc, where roughly 100 million users log in to Twitter each month.

“Meta have informed us that they have no plans to roll out the service in the EU at present,” Graham Doyle, deputy commissioner of Ireland’s Data Protection Commission, told Bloomberg on Wednesday.

Shouts and Murmurs: Meta has been at work courting A-list celebrities, such as Oprah Winfrey and the Dalai Lama, to sign up for Threads, according to a report from The Verge. “We’ve been hearing from creators and public figures who are interested in having a platform that is sanely run,” Chris Cox, Meta’s chief product officer, reportedly told staff in a not-so-veiled shot at Elon Musk and the chaos over at Twitter. “Thank goodness they’re so sanely run,” Musk sarcastically retorted earlier this week in a tweet featuring a screenshot of Threads’ data collection policies. Call us when he finally enters the cage match with Zuckerberg. Actually, on second thought, just call us when the fight is over.