Threads, the recently launched social media platform by Meta, has gained tens of millions of users within a month. It serves as a Twitter competitor, attracting users interested in following celebrities, news outlets, and politicians. While some view Threads as a platform for free speech, many believe urgent action is required to tackle the spread of hate and disinformation.
META’s Platform: “Threads”
Threads, an application on Instagram, offers the ability to create threads, respond to others, and follow profiles of interest. Threads and responses may contain text, links, photos, videos, or a mix of these elements. Users can be followed, and their threads and replies will be visible to followers in their feeds and on their profiles, with post visibility controlled by privacy settings. Others can engage in the discussion by replying, liking, sharing, quoting, or reposting the content. Creating a Threads profile is open to all Instagram account holders.
Threads has garnered a user base of more than 115 million. It achieved the milestone of surpassing 1 million users within one hour of its launch, and within a remarkable two-day period, it reached 70 million users. Notably, Kim Kardashian's Threads account is the most followed, with 5 million followers.
Conservatives Accuse Threads Of Censorship
Right-wing Twitter users, who have been critical of numerous businesses labeled "woke" for several months, are directing their attention towards Meta's recent social platform, Threads, claiming that it is censoring conservative voices.
Screenshots of warning messages that appeared when following Donald Trump Jr.'s Threads account, stating he had "repeatedly posted false information," went viral. Similar warnings were observed for other right-wing users, like conservative commentator Rogan O’Handley.
Meta spokesperson Andy Stone acknowledged the misinformation labels, attributing them to errors that have since been fixed. He clarified that Threads adheres to Instagram's Community Guidelines, which prohibit hate speech, credible threats, nudity, spam, and illegal content. Instagram had previously announced the use of third-party fact-checkers to identify and label false information in posts, aiming to reduce their distribution.
Meta Will Not Include a Fact-checking Program in Threads
By integrating Threads with various social media platforms, Meta is intentionally attracting individuals interested in microblogging, including news enthusiasts, politicians, and those who enjoy engaging in debates. This move presents Meta with new opportunities and potential obstacles to navigate.
One significant departure from Meta's approach to managing misinformation on its other apps is the decision not to extend the existing fact-checking program to Threads. According to Christine Pai, a spokesperson for Meta, this means Threads won't have a feature that labels false posts, which has been used on Facebook and Instagram.
During a New York Times podcast, Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, acknowledged that Threads is more conducive to public discourse compared to Meta's other services, making it likely to attract a news-oriented audience.
Meta faced immediate challenges distancing itself from controversy after Threads' launch. Within a short period, Reuters observed Threads accounts discussing conspiracy theories like the Illuminati and "billionaire satanists." Additionally, users engaged in heated debates over sensitive topics ranging from gender identity to violence.
Civil Rights Groups Warn of Hate Speech on Threads
According to advocates and civil rights groups, Meta's newly introduced text-based community forum Threads appears to have not adequately addressed concerns related to accessibility and other essential features. The platform has already become a home to hate speech and extremist accounts, similar to the issues that have plagued Twitter.
There are no apparent Threads-specific guidelines or policies outlining how Meta plans to tackle these problems. This has led to criticism from 24 civil rights, digital justice, and pro-democracy organizations, including Media Matters for America, the Center for Countering Digital Hate, and GLAAD. These organizations argue that Meta's parent company is regressing in its efforts to create a safer online environment for users.
The advocates' letter highlights the presence of "neo-Nazi rhetoric, election lies, COVID and climate change denialism, and more toxicity" on the new platform, with accounts posting "bigoted slurs, election denial, COVID-19 conspiracies, targeted harassment of and denial of trans individuals' existence, misogyny, and more."
Furthermore, the letter contains three urgent recommendations for Threads. One of these is to introduce specific and robust policies tailored to Threads, addressing the unique challenges of a rapidly growing text-based platform, with a strong emphasis on combating hate speech to safeguard marginalized communities. Second, prioritize safety and fairness by adopting a proactive, human-centered approach to countering machine learning bias and other AI-related misconduct. Third, establish governance and leadership practices that foster regular engagement with civil society, providing transparency and accessibility of data and methodologies for researchers to analyze Threads' business models, content, and moderation practices.
Voting Groups Urge Threads for an Election Disinformation Policy
Threads has rapidly attracted tens of millions of users in under a month, which is causing apprehension among voting rights organizations. The concern stems from Threads' failure to present a plan to address election disinformation on the platform.
Vote.org, a prominent get-out-the-vote organization, along with 11 other voting rights groups such as End Citizens United, RepresentUs, and Public Citizen, jointly sent a letter to Meta, urging them to disclose a comprehensive strategy for implementing strong election policies right from the platform's inception.
Andrea Hailey, CEO of Vote.org, emphasized the responsibility that comes with a large user base and requested a concrete plan, especially considering the upcoming presidential primaries and the imminent presidential election.
The voting rights groups express their unease, pointing to previous elections where social media witnessed widespread dissemination of disinformation regarding voter registration, polling places, and political candidates.
The social media platform Meta has election disinformation policies in place for Facebook and Instagram, but it has not yet published specific policies for its newly launched platform, Threads. A company spokesperson stated that Facebook's rules apply to Threads, prohibiting false claims about voter registration. However, voting rights groups are urging Threads to have its own stand-alone policy to ensure clear implementation and enforcement of the rules. They emphasize the urgency of this matter. Vote.org and other voting rights groups are requesting information from Meta on resource allocation, rule and policy creation, and measures to ensure accurate election information on Threads.