Threads usage down significantly as Meta blocks VPN access in EU - The UpStream

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Threads usage down significantly as Meta blocks VPN access in EU

posted Sunday Jul 16, 2023 by Scott Ertz

Threads is Meta's new Twitter-like social media platform. It's only been out a short while, but usage has already dropped significantly, partially because of a loss of the new factor, but also because of a change made by Meta. Because of the platform's privacy and data policies, the company has had to block the EU, but not VPN access from the EU has had to be blocked as well in an attempt to avoid the wrath of the European Union regulators.

What is Threads?

Threads is what happens when Instagram tries to duplicate Twitter. It's a social media platform created by Meta, allowing users to post short messages and stories in the form of threads. The app works similarly to Twitter, but with an Instagram twist. Or, some have said that it is like Instagram, but with the images below the text instead of above it.

Within the first few days of launch, Threads saw over 100 million users. This is partially because people were looking for a way to leave Twitter without having to understand Mastodon, but also because if you have an Instagram account, it was super easy to add a Threads account. However, there have been some problems for Meta that have slowed growth.

The EU Strikes Back

If you haven't looked closely at the Threads privacy policy, you probably should. The system collects an absolute ton of data about you - seemingly even more than Facebook or Instagram. In it is mentioned incredibly personal and often protected data. Because of this, the system simply cannot exist in the EU. That's why the company skipped a rollout within the Union.

However, residents of the EU did not want to be left behind. Because of this, they ran VPNs on their phones and computers and reported their location as the UK, the US, etc. That gave them the ability to create their accounts and use the platform. However, it doesn't entirely protect Meta from the liability created by its data policies.

Because of this liability, the company has had to ban the usage of VPNs within the EU as well as the EU residents directly. With this change, the active user base for Threads has decreased, as users in those countries suddenly were met with notifications of no posts, or only seeing cached posts from previous sessions.

The company really needs the perception that they are complying with the EU, as to avoid the legal wrath that companies like Google and Apple regularly receive from the Union. The move, however, seems less like a legitimate attempt to prevent EU users from accessing the platform and more about creating a public perception that that is what they're doing. This is because it would still be pretty easy to bypass the checks, as there are common ways to accomplish this, though we won't detail them here. With these common practices, you could easily report your location as elsewhere and regain access to Threads.


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