The first thing to understand about Threads is that Meta, back when it was known as Facebook because it hadn’t blown ten billion dollars on its founder’s idiotic Second Life but without legs or users clone, was complicit in genocide.
The second thing to understand about Threads is that Meta, the company that created it, committed fraud around video on social media in such a way as to significantly harm the business of media websites.
The third thing to understand about Threads is that Meta’s founder and CEO, Zuckerberg, had a private meeting with then President Trump, in 2019 and agreed to back off fact-checking Trump allies in exchange for the Trump administration not regulating Zuckerberg’s business.
The fourth thing you need to understand about threads, then, is that their claims that their new social media product will downplay news and politics are not true. They will downplay disruptive news and politics but be fine with playing up anything in the status quo that helps them.
The choice to not highlight news is a political choice — one that advances the interests of certain groups and people over others. Threads, right now, gives you little choice in what you follow. Your feed is completely at the mercy of the algorithm. even if you follow people, there is no promise that what they post will get seen by everyone they follow — that is entirely up to Meta. And we know that Meta has a habit of manipulating its feed for its own purposes, allowing dangerous content to be pushed to the forefront in order to drive engagement.
If Meta decides that the next Arab Spring damages its relationship with deep money regimes, the algorithm will not show it. If Meta decides that the next Black Lives Matters protest movement damages its relationship with local governments, the algorithm will not show it. If Meta decides that people, knowing that it collects location and health data about abortion seeking woman that can be turned over to local governments and law enforcement agencies is bad for Meta, the algorithm will not show it.
The beauty of this deception, from Meta’s standpoint, is that no one has to even mess with the dials overtly. Merely downplay all news and politics and lo and behold, they and their advertisers get to evade scrutiny.
Meta chose to cripple people’s ability to see what they want to see purposefully. They are not interested in making a social media app that serves your needs. That want to be a brand marketplace — nothing more. They intend to be the place that checks the social media checkbox for most major brands, making it easy for them to sell ads and promote themselves without having to worry too much about controversy or taking positions. That is why they made the choices to go live with the product they did.
Threads lack of a guarantee of seeing everything produced by the people you follow and only that content means that they can tamp down on activism on the platform. It also means that they can push advertisements and certain political and social positions into your feed whether you want them or not. And they likely will as long as those positions reinforce the goals or worldviews of their advertisers and financial backers. They built Threads as a phone app first since that is the best way to harvest sensitive information, especially location data. They didn’t roll it out in the EU since it is a privacy nightmare that cannot adhere to the EU’s guidelines.
Threads will be political. It is just that it will be the politics of the status quo, the politics of whatever is best for advertisers and venture capitalists. By building an application that mines users’ personal data, suppresses their ability to organize and the reach of hard news, and prevents people from choosing their own experience, Meta is building an app that is designed to serve the needs of capital, not people.
And that is deeply, deeply political choice.