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Meta will auto-blur nudity in Instagram DMs in latest teen safety step | TechCrunch

Meta said on Thursday that it is testing new features on Instagram intended to help safeguard young people from unwanted nudity or sextortion scams. This includes a feature called “Nudity Protection in DMs,” which automatically blurs images detected as containing nudity.

The tech giant said it will also nudge teens to protect themselves by serving a warning encouraging them to think twice about sharing intimate images. Meta hopes this will boost protection against scammers who may send nude images to trick people into sending their own images in return.

The company said it is also implementing changes that will make it more difficult for potential scammers and criminals to find and interact with teens. Meta said it is developing new technology to identify accounts that are “potentially” involved in sextortion scams, and will apply limits on how these suspect accounts can interact with other users.

In another step announced on Thursday, Meta said it has increased the data it is sharing with the cross-platform online child safety program, Lantern, to include more “sextortion-specific signals.”

The social networking giant has had long-standing policies that ban people from sending unwanted nudes or seeking to coerce others into sharing intimate images. However, that doesn’t stop these problems from occurring and causing misery for scores of teens and young people — sometimes with extremely tragic results.

We’ve rounded up the latest crop of changes in more detail below.

Nudity screens

Nudity Protection in DMs aims to protect teen users of Instagram from cyberflashing by putting nude images behind a safety screen. Users will be able to choose whether or not to view such images.

“We’ll also show them a message encouraging them not to feel pressure to respond, with an option to block the sender and report the chat,” said Meta.

The nudity safety screen will be turned on by default for users under 18 globally. Older users will see a notification encouraging them to turn the feature on.

“When nudity protection is turned on, people sending images containing nudity will see a message reminding them to be cautious when sending sensitive photos, and that they can unsend these photos if they’ve changed their mind,” the company added.

Anyone trying to forward a nude image will see the same warning encouraging them to reconsider.

The feature is powered by on-device machine learning, so Meta said it will work within end-to-end encrypted chats because the image analysis is carried out on the user’s own device.

The nudity filter has been in development for nearly two years.

Safety tips

In another safeguarding measure, Instagram users who send or receive nudes will be directed to safety tips (with information about the potential risks involved), which, according to Meta, have been developed with guidance from experts.

“These tips include reminders that people may screenshot or forward images without your knowledge, that your relationship to the person may change in the future, and that you should review profiles carefully in case they’re not who they say they are,” the company wrote in a statement. “They also link to a range of resources, including Meta’s Safety Center, support helplines, for those over 18, and Take It Down for those under 18.”

The company is also testing showing pop-up messages to people who may have interacted with an account that has been removed for sextortion. These pop-ups will also direct users to relevant resources.

“We’re also adding new child safety helplines from around the world into our in-app reporting flows. This means when teens report relevant issues — such as nudity, threats to share private images or sexual exploitation or solicitation — we’ll direct them to local child safety helplines where available,” the company said.

Tech to spot sextortionists

While Meta says it removes sextortionists’ accounts when it becomes aware of them, it first needs to spot bad actors to shut them down. So, the company is trying to go further by “developing technology to help identify where accounts may potentially be engaging in sextortion scams, based on a range of signals that could indicate sextortion behavior.”

“While these signals aren’t necessarily evidence that an account has broken our rules, we’re taking precautionary steps to help prevent these accounts from finding and interacting with teen accounts,” the company said. “This builds on the work we already do to prevent other potentially suspicious accounts from finding and interacting with teens.”

It’s not clear what technology Meta is using to do this analysis, nor which signals might denote a potential sextortionist (we’ve asked for more details). Presumably, the company may analyze patterns of communication to try to detect bad actors.

Accounts that get flagged by Meta as potential sextortionists will face restrictions on messaging or interacting with other users.

“[A]ny message requests potential sextortion accounts try to send will go straight to the recipient’s hidden requests folder, meaning they won’t be notified of the message and never have to see it,” the company wrote.

Users who are already chatting with potential scam or sextortion accounts will not have their chats shut down, but will be shown Safety Notices “encouraging them to report any threats to share their private images, and reminding them that they can say ‘no’ to anything that makes them feel uncomfortable,” according to the company.

Teen users are already protected from receiving DMs from adults they are not connected with on Instagram (and also from other teens, in some cases). But Meta is taking this a step further: The company said it is testing a feature that hides the “Message” button on teenagers’ profiles for potential sextortion accounts — even if they’re connected.

“We’re also testing hiding teens from these accounts in people’s follower, following and like lists, and making it harder for them to find teen accounts in Search results,” it added.

It’s worth noting the company is under increasing scrutiny in Europe over child safety risks on Instagram, and enforcers have questioned its approach since the bloc’s Digital Services Act (DSA) came into force last summer.

A long, slow creep towards safety

Meta has announced measures to combat sextortion before — most recently in February, when it expanded access to Take It Down. The third-party tool lets people generate a hash of an intimate image locally on their own device and share it with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, helping to create a repository of non-consensual image hashes that companies can use to search for and remove revenge porn.

The company’s previous approaches to tackle that problem had been criticized, as they required young people to upload their nudes. In the absence of hard laws regulating how social networks need to protect children, Meta was left to self-regulate for years — with patchy results.

However, some requirements have landed on platforms in recent years — such as the U.K.’s Children Code (which came into force in 2021) and the more recent DSA in the EU — and tech giants like Meta are finally having to pay more attention to protecting minors.

For example, in July 2021, Meta started defaulting young people’s Instagram accounts to private just ahead of the U.K. compliance deadline. Even tighter privacy settings for teens on Instagram and Facebook followed in November 2022.

This January, the company announced it would set stricter messaging settings for teens on Facebook and Instagram by default, shortly before the full compliance deadline for the DSA kicked in in February.

This slow and iterative feature creep at Meta concerning protective measures for young users raises questions about what took the company so long to apply stronger safeguards. It suggests Meta opted for a cynical minimum in safeguarding in a bid to manage the impact on usage, and prioritize engagement over safety. That is exactly what Meta whistleblower Francis Haugen repeatedly denounced her former employer for.

Asked why the company is not also rolling out these new protections to Facebook, a spokeswoman for Meta told TechCrunch, “We want to respond to where we see the biggest need and relevance — which, when it comes to unwanted nudity and educating teens on the risks of sharing sensitive images — we think is on Instagram DMs, so that’s where we’re focusing first.”

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Hundreds of creators sign letter slamming Meta's limit on political content | TechCrunch

If you haven’t been seeing much political content on Instagram lately, there’s a reason for that. Since March, Instagram and Threads have instituted a new default setting that limits political content you see from people you’re not following.

Hundreds of creators, convened by GLAAD and Accountable Tech, have signed an open letter demanding that Instagram make the political content limit an opt-in feature, rather than on by default.

“With many of us providing authoritative and factual content on Instagram that helps people understand current events, civic engagement, and electoral participation, Instagram is thereby limiting our ability to reach people online to help foster more inclusive and participatory democracy and society during a critical inflection point for our country,” the letter reads.

The letter’s signatories include comedian Alok Vaid-Menon (1.3 million followers), Glee actor Kevin McHale (1.1 million), news account So Informed (3.1 million), activist Carlos Eduardo Espina (664,000), Under the Desk News (397,000) and other meme accounts, political organizers and entertainers.

Instagram’s definition of political content leaves a lot of room for interpretation, which stokes further concern among these creators. It describes political content as anything “potentially related to things like laws, elections, or social topics.”

The letter points out that this “endangers the reach of marginalized folks speaking to their own lived experience on Meta’s platforms” and limits the conversation around topics like climate change, gun control and reproductive rights.

For political creators, these limits can also impact their livelihood, since it will be harder to reach new audiences. While Instagram isn’t particularly lucrative (there’s no regular revenue share with creators), building a following on the platform can lead to other financial opportunities, like brand sponsorships.

As election season looms in the U.S., Instagram’s decision to distance itself from politics could seem like a way to do damage control — Meta has a less-than-stellar track record when it comes to its role in elections. But Meta could be creating even more problems by siloing its users into political echo chambers, where they’re never exposed to any information from people outside their existing circles.

“Removing political recommendations as a default setting, and consequently stopping people from seeing suggested political content poses a serious threat to political engagement, education, and activism,” the letter says.


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Meta adds its AI chatbot, powered by Llama 3, to the search bar across its apps | TechCrunch

Meta’s making several big moves today to promote its AI services across its platform. The company has upgraded its AI chatbot with its newest large language model, Llama 3, and it is now running it in the search bar of its four major apps (Facebook, Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp) across multiple countries. Alongside this, the company launched other new features, such as faster image generation and access to web search results.

This confirms and extends a test that TechCrunch reported on last week, when we spotted that the company had started testing Meta AI on Instagram’s search bar.

Additionally, the company is also launching a new site for users to access the chatbot.

The news underscores Meta’s efforts to stake out a position as a mover and shaker amid the current hype for generative AI tools among consumers. Chasing after other popular services in the market such as those from OpenAI, Mark Zuckerberg claimed today that Meta AI is possibly the “most intelligent AI assistant that you can freely use.”

Meta first rolled out Meta AI in the U.S. last year. It is now expanding the chatbot in the English language in over a dozen countries, including Australia, Canada, Ghana, Jamaica, Malawi, New Zealand, Nigeria, Pakistan, Singapore, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The company last week started testing Meta AI in countries like India and Nigeria, but notably, India was missing from today’s announcement. Meta said that it plans to keep Meta AI in test mode in the country at the moment.

“We continue to learn from our users tests in India. As we do with many of our AI products and features, we test them publicly in varying phases and in a limited capacity,” a company spokesperson said in a statement.

New features

Users could already ask Meta AI for writing or recipe suggestions. Now, they can also ask for web-related results powered by Google and Bing.

Image Credits: Meta

The company said that it is also making image generation faster. Plus, users can ask Meta AI to animate an image or turn an image into a GIF. Users can see the AI tool modifying the image in real time as they type. The company has also worked on making image quality of AI-generated photos better.

Image Credits: Meta

AI-powered image-generation tools have been bad at spelling out words. Meta claims that its new model has also shown improvements in this area.

All AI things everywhere at once

Meta is adopting the approach of having Meta AI available in as many places as it can. It is making the bot available on the search bar, in individual and group chats and even in the feed.

Image Credits: Meta

The company said that you can ask questions related to posts in your Facebook feed. For example, if you see a photo of the aurora borealis, you could ask Meta AI for suggestions about what is the best time to visit Iceland to see northern lights.

Image Credits: Meta

Meta AI is already available on the Ray-Ban smart glasses, and the company said that soon it will be available on the Meta Quest headset, too.

There are downsides to having AI in so many places. Specifically, the models can “hallucinate” and make up random, often non-sensical responses, so using them across multiple platforms could end up presenting a content moderation nightmare. Earlier this week, 404 Media reported that Meta AI, chatting in a parents group, said that it had a gifted and academically challenged child who attended a particular school in New York. (Parents spotted the odd message, and Meta eventually also weighed in and removed the answer, saying that the company would continue to work on improving these systems.)

“We share information within the features themselves to help people understand that AI might return inaccurate or inappropriate outputs. Since we launched, we’ve constantly released updates and improvements to our models, and we’re continuing to work on making them better,” Meta told 404 Media.

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TikTok starts testing its Instagram competitor TikTok Notes in Canada and Australia | TechCrunch

TikTok is rolling out its Instagram competitor, TikTok Notes, in select markets. The app is available on the Google Play Store and Apple App Store in Canada and Australia, the company said.

The company said on X that it is in the “early stage” of the app’s rollout. TikTok said that the app is “a dedicated space for photo and text content.”

“We hope that the TikTok community will use TikTok Notes to continue sharing their moments through photo posts. Whether documenting adventures, expressing creativity, or simply sharing snapshots of one’s day, the TikTok Notes experience is designed for those who would like to share and engage through photo content,” it said.

The company didn’t say much about the app’s features and functionality apart from the fact that users can log in with their existing TikTok account. Even the app’s description on the app store is pretty thin on details.

“TikTok Notes is a lifestyle platform that offers informative photo-text content about people’s lives, where you can see individuals sharing their travel tips and daily recipes,” the description on the app stores read.

The screenshots on the App Store listing suggest that the posts will appear in two-column grids on the home page. The screenshots also indicate that you can post multiple photos through a carousel post.

Earlier this month, TechCrunch reported that the Bytedance-owned company’s Instagram competitor is likely to be named TikTok Notes.

Notably, TikTok already allows image and text posts. However, the company wants to create a new space for this kind of post to compete with Meta’s apps like Instagram and Threads.

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Meta's X competitor Threads invites developers to sign up for API access, publishes docs | TechCrunch

After opening its developer API to select companies for testing in March, Meta’s Twitter/X competitor Threads is now introducing developer documentation and a sign-up sheet for interested parties ahead of the API’s public launch, planned for June.

The new documentation details the API’s current limitations and its endpoints, among other things, which could help developers get started on their Threads-connected apps and any other projects that integrate with the new social network.

For instance, those who want to track analytics around Threads’ posts can use an Insights API to retrieve things like views, likes, replies, reposts, and quotes. There are also details on how to publish posts and media via the API, retrieve replies, and a series of troubleshooting tips.

The documentation indicates that Threads accounts are limited to 250 API-published posts within a 24-hour period and 1,000 replies — a measure to counteract spam or other excessive use. It also offers the image and video specifications for media uploaded with users’ posts and notes that Threads’ text post character counts have a hard limit of 500 characters — longer than old Twitter’s 280 characters, but far less than the 25,000 characters X offers to paid subscribers or the now 100,000 characters it permits in articles posted directly to its platform.

Whether or not Meta will ultimately favor certain kinds of apps over others remains to be seen.

So far, Threads API beta testers have included social tool makers like Sprinklr, Sprout Social, Social News Desk, Hootsuite, and tech news board Techmeme.

Although Threads has begun its integration with the wider fediverse — the network of interconnected social networking services that includes Mastodon and others — it doesn’t appear that fediverse sharing can be enabled or disabled through the API itself. Instead, users still have to visit their settings in the Threads app to publish to the fediverse.

Meta says the new documentation will be updated over time as it gathers feedback from developers. In addition, anyone interested in building with the new API and providing feedback can now request access via a sign-up page — something that could also help Meta track the apps that are preparing to go live alongside the API’s public launch.

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TikTok's Instagram competitor likely to be named TikTok Notes | TechCrunch

TikTok’s upcoming Instagram competitor app for sharing photos could be named TikTok Notes, according to screenshots posted by users. TikTok also confirmed the app was in development.

Over the last few days, TikTok users have been getting pop-up notifications about a new TikTok Notes app to share photos.

The notification says that the company is soon launching “a new app for photo posts” called TikTok Notes and users’ existing photo posts will be shared on the app. Users can choose to not share their image posts to the new app too.

TikTok confirmed that it is working on the app but specified that it is not available yet.

“As part of our continued commitment to innovating the TikTok experience, we’re exploring ways to empower our community to create and share their creativity with photos and text in a dedicated space for those formats,” a TikTok spokesperson told TechCrunch.

Separately, a TikTok-owned URL — (internet archive link) — shows a placeholder marketing image with the text “Opening in TikTok Notes.”

Image Credits: TikTok

Last month, code and language found in the TikTok APK file — an installable file format for Android — suggested that the company has been working to launch a photo-sharing app called TikTok Photos.

However, the latest pop-ups within TikTok suggest that the company might be considering another name for the app.

Both TikTok and Meta are fiercely competing over social media space. While the ByteDance-owned app is prepping to launch an app related to photo-sharing, Meta rolled out a vertical-first video player for Facebook.

TikTok is also experimenting with different formats like 30-minute videos and even text posts like X and Threads.

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Meta's Oversight Board probes explicit AI-generated images posted on Instagram and Facebook | TechCrunch

The Oversight Board, Meta’s semi-independent policy council, it turning its attention to how the company’s social platforms are handling explicit, AI-generated images. Tuesday, it announced investigations into two separate cases over how Instagram in India and Facebook in the U.S. handled AI-generated images of public figures after Meta’s systems fell short on detecting and responding to the explicit content.

In both cases, the sites have now taken down the media. The board is not naming the individuals targeted by the AI images “to avoid gender-based harassment,” according to an e-mail Meta sent to TechCrunch.

The board takes up cases about Meta’s moderation decisions. Users have to appeal to Meta first about a moderation move before approaching the Oversight Board. The board is due to publish its full findings and conclusions in the future.

The cases

Describing the first case, the board said that a user reported an AI-generated nude of a public figure from India on Instagram as pornography. The image was posted by an account that exclusively posts images of Indian women created by AI, and the majority of users who react to these images are based in India.

Meta failed to take down the image after the first report, and the ticket for the report was closed automatically after 48 hours after the company didn’t review the report further. When the original complainant appealed the decision, the report was again closed automatically without any oversight from Meta. In other words, after two reports, the explicit AI-generated image remained on Instagram.

The user then finally appealed to the board. The company only acted at that point to remove the objectionable content and removed the image for breaching its community standards on bullying and harassment.

The second case relates to Facebook, where a user posted an explicit, AI-generated image that resembled a U.S. public figure in a Group focusing on AI creations. In this case, the social network took down the image as it was posted by another user earlier, and Meta had added it to a Media Matching Service Bank under “derogatory sexualized photoshop or drawings” category.

When TechCrunch asked about why the board selected a case where the company successfully took down an explicit AI-generated image, the board said it selects cases “that are emblematic of broader issues across Meta’s platforms.” It added that these cases help the advisory board to look at the global effectiveness of Meta’s policy and processes for various topics.

“We know that Meta is quicker and more effective at moderating content in some markets and languages than others. By taking one case from the US and one from India, we want to look at whether Meta is protecting all women globally in a fair way,” Oversight Board Co-Chair Helle Thorning-Schmidt said in a statement.

“The Board believes it’s important to explore whether Meta’s policies and enforcement practices are effective at addressing this problem.”

The problem of deep fake porn and online gender-based violence

Some — not all — generative AI tools in recent years have expanded to allow users to generate porn. As TechCrunch reported previously, groups like Unstable Diffusion are trying to monetize AI porn with murky ethical lines and bias in data.

In regions like India, deepfakes have also become an issue of concern. Last year, a report from the BBC noted that the number of deepfaked videos of Indian actresses has soared in recent times. Data suggests that women are more commonly subjects for deepfaked videos.

Earlier this year, Deputy IT Minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar expressed dissatisfaction with tech companies’ approach to countering deepfakes.

“If a platform thinks that they can get away without taking down deepfake videos, or merely maintain a casual approach to it, we have the power to protect our citizens by blocking such platforms,” Chandrasekhar said in a press conference at that time.

While India has mulled bringing specific deepfake-related rules into the law, nothing is set in stone yet.

While the country there are provisions for reporting online gender-based violence under law, experts note that the process could be tedious, and there is often little support. In a study published last year, the Indian advocacy group IT for Change noted that courts in India need to have robust processes to address online gender-based violence and not trivialize these cases.

There are currently only a few laws globally that address the production and distribution of porn generated using AI tools. A handful of U.S. states have laws against deepfakes. The UK introduced a law this week to criminalize the creation of sexually explicit AI-powered imagery.

Meta’s response and the next steps

In response to the Oversight Board’s cases, Meta said it took down both pieces of content. However, the social media company didn’t address the fact that it failed to remove content on Instagram after initial reports by users or for how long the content was up on the platform.

Meta said that it uses a mix of artificial intelligence and human review to detect sexually suggestive content. The social media giant said that it doesn’t recommend this kind of content in places like Instagram Explore or Reels recommendations.

The Oversight Board has sought public comments — with a deadline of April 30 — on the matter that addresses harms by deep fake porn, contextual information about the proliferation of such content in regions like the U.S. and India, and possible pitfalls of Meta’s approach in detecting AI-generated explicit imagery.

The board will investigate the cases and public comments and post the decision on the site in a few weeks.

These cases indicate that large platforms are still grappling with older moderation processes while AI-powered tools have enabled users to create and distribute different types of content quickly and easily. Companies like Meta are experimenting with tools that use AI for content generation, with some efforts to detect such imagery. However, perpetrators are constantly finding ways to escape these detection systems and post problematic content on social platforms.

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Threads is finally testing a recent filter for search results | TechCrunch

Meta-owned social network Threads is finally testing a “Recent” filter to sort search results by the latest. Instagram head Adam Mosseri noted Monday that this is a limited test, and the feature is available to only a few people.

“We’re starting to test this with a small number of people, so it’s easier to find relevant search results in real-time,” he said in a reply to a user.

A user part of the test posted that they could see “Top” and “Recent” filters on the search results screen. They noted that the “Recent” filter isn’t strictly chronological, but it shows the latest posts better than the “Top” filter.

Earlier this year, the company accidentally rolled out the option to sort search results by the latest. At that time, the company said it was an “internal prototype available for a small number of people.”

Last November, Instagram head Adam Mosseri said that Threads didn’t have a feature to search for real-time results, as it could create a “safety loophole.”

“To clarify, having a comprehensive list of *every* post with a specific word in chronological order inevitably means spammers and other bad actors pummel the view with content by simply adding the relevant words or tags. And before you ask why we don’t take down that bad content, understand there’s a lot more content that people don’t want to see than we can or should take down.” Mosseri said at that time, explaining why Threads didn’t have an option to sort search results.

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Meta explains why the NYC/NJ earthquake didn't trend earlier in the day | TechCrunch

Despite its similarities, Instagram Threads is no X. At least, not yet. The text-focused social network — and Meta’s answer to Elon Musk’s X, formerly Twitter — missed a moment to shine on Friday when users once again turned to X to discuss the New York/New Jersey area earthquake. The traffic surge drove #earthquake to the top of X’s Trends section, followed by other areas of impact, like “East Coast,” “Long Island,” “Philly,” “Manhattan” and “Brooklyn.” Meanwhile, earthquake-related terms didn’t register on Threads’ trends section until closer to 2 p.m. ET, even though the earthquake had hit a little before 10:30 on Friday morning.

That’s not to say people weren’t discussing the earthquake on Threads — many were. In addition to conversations taking place around the earthquake, people were even tagging their discussions as EarthquakeThreads or NYC Threads, among other things, to help surface their posts to the wider Threads Community.


Post by @timothyjchambers
View on Threads


Another reason the term likely wasn’t trending: Unlike Twitter/X, Threads doesn’t use hashtags.

While this design choice makes the user interface cleaner, it also may make it less obvious how to tag trending terms. It seems obvious that discussions of the earthquake should be tagged #earthquake (or “earthquake” without the hashtag, as on Threads), but people on the Meta-owned platform have started using the tagging convention of [term] Threads — like “Tech Threads” for people in tech talking about tech, for example.

This could complicate things when a big trend comes along because some will tag it “earthquake” and others will tag it “Earthquake Threads” while others still may target their local community, like “NYC Threads,” which leads to none of the terms gaining the velocity and momentum needed to break into the top trends on Threads, despite all of them referencing the same event.

Around 1 p.m. on Friday, TechCrunch reached out to Instagram to ask why the earthquake didn’t make it into Threads’ top trends.

We were told that Threads’ five top trends are based on various signals, including how many people are talking about a given topic, and how many people have engaged with posts on that same topic. Because the earthquake was a regional event, and trends are based on national conversations, it may have simply taken more time for enough people to join the conversation, Instagram said.


Post by @backlon
View on Threads


Shortly after checking in with Threads, the now many-hours-old earthquake became the No. 1 trend on the platform.

Unfortunately for Threads, being unable to keep up with trends in real time could hamper its ability to fully compete with X. Combined with Meta’s plan to distance itself from discussions of a political nature — even going so far as not to “recommend” political content across Instagram and Threads’ platforms — Threads may never fully be able to supersede X, even if it builds many of the other same bells and whistles, like reposts, search, bookmarks and linkable tags.

This stands in sharp contradiction to how Twitter’s founders perceived the power of their new platform to deliver real-time information — and a reason why Twitter became the home to breaking news, active topical discussions and a hub for journalists.

Not long after TechCrunch covered Twitter (then called Twttr) for the first time, the San Francisco earthquake rocked the service, allowing both the founders and users alike to grasp Twttr’s potential. Later that fall, the app had grown to thousands of users.

Said former CEO and co-founder Jack Dorsey in a 2016 Harvard Business School newsroom interview, “I was in the office on a Saturday, and my phone buzzed, and it was a tweet, and it said simply, ‘Earthquake.’ Immediately after that I actually felt the tremors in San Francisco. The phone kept buzzing, and there was, ‘earthquake, earthquake, earthquake.’”

“What was amazing about that is I was experiencing something in the world, and immediately I felt comforted because it was obvious that other people were experiencing the same thing,” Dorsey said. “I thought, ‘Wow, the world is so small. You can actually — just by having that shared sensation that shared experience, you all feel like you’re all in this together.’”

Threads may have 130 million monthly active users, making it the largest player in the “fediverse,” the social network of interconnected servers and services, including Mastodon, Misskey, Pixelfed, PeerTube and others. But despite usage declines, X has remained “stickier” than some would have believed, especially given the wide crop of competitors that have emerged to challenge Musk’s X. In fact, according to one report by Sensor Tower, X’s usage by power users remained largely unchanged as of last fall.

Already there are signs that Threads is failing to deliver a true X-like experience. As Max Read described it in a March newsletter, “Threads is the gas-leak social network,” referring to the randomness of the posts that filled users’ For You feeds.

“Everyone on the platform, including you, seems to be suffering some kind of minor brain damage,” Read wrote. “Who are these people? What are they talking about? Are they responding to something that I missed? Why am I reading this? How did it get into my feed? How am I supposed to react?”

If Threads can’t capitalize on real-time information, like an earthquake or a current political discussion; if its feed bubbles up very old posts; and if its trends remain delayed by hours, Threads’ ability to be a viable Twitter alternative could suffer. While people may use it — because they don’t like X’s new direction or Elon Musk specifically — they’ll never have a true X-like experience.

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Meta to close Threads in Turkey to comply with injunction prohibiting data-sharing with Instagram | TechCrunch

Meta has said that it plans to “temporarily” shutter Threads in Turkey from April 29, in response to an interim injunction imposed by the Turkish competition authority last month over the way Meta shares data between Threads and Instagram.

The Turkish Competition Authority (TCA), known as Rekabet Kurumu, issued findings on March 18, noting that its investigations found that Meta was abusing its market dominant position by combining the data of users who create Threads profile with that of their Instagram account — without giving the user the choice to opt-in.

This is the latest in a long line of regulatory battles Meta has faced in the European region, after being hit with a $267 million fine over WhatsApp GDPR breaches in the European Union (EU), while it was also forced to sell its $400 million Giphy acquisition to Shutterstock for $53 million, on the grounds that the deal reduced competition.

Meshing data

More relevant to today’s news, however, was when Turkey hit Meta with a $18.6 million fine in 2022 for combining user data across Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp. In January this year, Turkey’s TCA said it would be issuing Meta with an additional $160,000 fine each day for non-compliance to the previous order, with the TCA arguing that a notification message that Meta sent to users over its data-sharing practices was insufficient and lacked transparency.

So this latest skirmish isn’t exactly without precedent.

For context, Facebook’s sibling company Instagram launched Threads last summer, in large part to capitalize on the exodus of Twitter users following Elon Musk’s controversial takeover. Although Threads has gone on to amass a reported 130 million users today, a perennial criticism has been centered on the way it forces users to create an Instagram account in order to gain a Threads profile.

Initially, the only way Meta allowed users to delete a Threads profile was by deleting their whole Instagram account, though it later introduced a separate delete mechanism for those wishing to ditch their Threads profile only. As part of its regulatory compliance measures for Threads delayed EU rollout, Meta introduced a “view without profile” feature for the EU market last year, giving users limited access to the social network without having to create an account.

Meanwhile, Turkish regulators announced a renewed investigation in December over the way that Meta linked Threads with Instagram, concluding last month that there was a strong case to answer for. In its provisional report, the TCA wrote:

  • Since META has been operating in the market for many years, it has a comprehensive and detailed data accumulation.

  • The size and diversity of META’s user base makes META services attractive for advertisers.

  • This situation allows META to allocate more resources for service development and makes it difficult for competitors to access advertisers and therefore financial resources, and in this context, META’s activities create an entry barrier in the market.

  • In addition, META operates as an ecosystem with the basic services and related services it offers, and this enables META to transfer the power and knowledge it gains from each service to another service and increases its market power.

And this leads us to today’s announcement that Meta will pull Threads, temporarily at least, pending further discussions and legal resolutions between the two parties.

“We disagree with the interim order, we believe we are in compliance with all Turkish legal requirements, and we will appeal,” Meta wrote in a blog post today. “The TCA’s interim order leaves us with no choice but to temporarily shut down Threads in Türkiye. We will continue to constructively engage with the TCA and hope to bring Threads back to people in Türkiye as quickly as possible.”

In the build up to April 29, everyone using Threads in Turkey will receive a notification about the impending closure, and they will be given a choice to either delete or deactivate their profile. The latter of these options means a user’s profile can be resurrected in the event of Threads being reinstated in Turkey.

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