Meta's Threads App 'Positive' Vibe Tested by Users Known for False Claims
Meta's Threads promises “positive, productive conversations” — an apparent swipe at the divisive rhetoric that is common on Twitter and other sites.
Since Meta Platforms Inc. launched Threads on Wednesday, millions of users have joined the new social platform that promises “positive, productive conversations” — an apparent swipe at the divisive rhetoric that is common on Twitter and other sites.
That promise will be more difficult to keep as the app's popularity grows — it's so far drawn 70 million users. That early adopter list includes some connected to the spread of misinformation, disinformation, and hate speech on other sites, according to checks by Bloomberg, confirmed by independent researchers.
Already, some of those users are testing the limits of the new app, making false claims about elections, casting doubts on vaccine safety, and hurling slurs at the LGBTQ community.
“We're already seeing plenty of high-profile accounts that have been known to spread harmful and misleading content,” says Melanie Smith, head of research for the Institute for Strategic Dialogue's US arm.
Among the new user accounts on Threads: Jack Posobiec, a far-right journalist who has espoused anti-Semitic and white supremacist views; Tim Pool, a YouTube commentator who has been accused of spreading right-wing misinformation; and Chaya Raichik, an anti-LGBTQ influencer and creator of the satirically named Libs of TikTok accounts.
Threads has started with some built-in defense mechanisms for harmful content, as its user policies are the same as Instagram's. When people click to follow accounts that have been flagged for spreading misinformation in the past, for instance, Threads shows a warning asking if they're sure.
Meta, the biggest social media company which also owns Facebook and Instagram, didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on whether it was aware of the Thread accounts from users who had spread disinformation or hate speech on other platforms.
Posobiec, for one, has already posted insults of transgender people on Threads and falsely claimed, “The 2020 election was rigged and everyone knows it.”
Raichik, under the Libs of TikTok user-name, also took swipes on the new app at transgender people and relished the possibility that her posts might cause controversy. “I love the fact that my existence on this app triggers the left so much,” she wrote shortly after signing up.
At least one member of the Disinformation Dozen, a term used to refer to some of the most influential spreaders of false claims about Covid-19 and its vaccines, have also created accounts. While Dr. Joseph Mercola hasn't posted any content about vaccines in the days since Threads was launched, his account on Threads had already gathered nearly 7,000 followers.
A number of far-right news outlets have also joined the app, with verified accounts for Breitbart News and The Gateway Pundit among them, but haven't yet posted much.
The Threads account for War Room, a show on Real America's Voice TV run by former Trump adviser Steve Bannon shared a clip on Threads Thursday featuring Naomi Wolf, who accused a prominent pharmaceutical company of committing fraud when it sought emergency authorization for its Covid-19 vaccine.
Several verified accounts attributed to state-run Russian news outlet Sputnik had also set up Threads accounts but most hadn't yet posted.
Meta formally launched Threads on July 6. The platform currently limits the ways in which a user can discover content. Unlike Twitter, users on Threads cannot search for specific phrases and are forced to view a feed that's decided by Meta's algorithms. That means popular users are likely to be promoted widely via the algorithm.
For Threads, ISD US's Smith urges users to exercise caution. “This is a social media app that is owned by Meta who have failed consistently in governing and moderating other platforms that they own,” she says.