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Meta delays launch of Threads in European Union due to GDPR

The new service, designed as an alternative to Twitter, will indeed exchange data with Instagram

Digital transition - July 11, 2023

On July 6, 2023, Meta launched a microblogging service called Threads in order to compete with Twitter. Already available in the United States, it should soon be rolled out in a hundred or so countries, but not in the European Union. Indeed, Meta deems Threads incompatible with the GDPR, which specifically prohibits transferring personal data from app to another.

Meta prompts Instagram users to automatically transfer their profile and followers to Threads, which constitutes a violation of European law. Meta did not even attempt legal proceedings to obtain European approval for Threads.

Indeed, the GDPR requires an analysis of the effect on data protection for any new product “likely to be high-risk in terms of rights and freedoms.” Meta did not forward this document to its supervisory authority for data protection, the Data Protection Commission (DPC), the Irish equivalent of France’s CNIL.

The group is thus opting for the fastest launch possible, even if this means abandoning the huge European market, while leaving the possibility open for a GDPR-compatible version of Threads further down the road.  Meta seems to be following in Google’s footsteps here. The latter chose to skip the European Union altogether when they launched Bard, an alternative to ChatGPT.

With Threads, Meta is hoping to take advantage of the criticism drawn by Twitter since the Musk takeover, and establish itself as a viable alternative. “Creators and public figures want a platform that is managed in a sensible manner, that they can trust,” stated Chris Cox, Chief Product Officer at Meta.

This position may seem paradoxical considering Facebook’s past choices in ethical matters, its moderation of harmful, hateful and violent content and how it deals with online bullying. The “Facebook Files”, in particular, showed that Meta always prioritized time spent on its platforms over the safety of its users.

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