Meta’s new app, Threads, is showing signs of falling short of capturing the essence of its predecessor, Twitter. The company seems not interested in cultivating the app as a useful hub for breaking news and world events.
In response to a question from The Verge’s Alex Heath, Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram and the default spokesperson for Threads, stated that Meta’s goal is not to replace Twitter. Instead, they aim to create a public square for communities on Instagram and Twitter, providing a less contentious conversation space.
“Politics and hard news are important, I don’t want to imply otherwise. But my take is, from a platform’s perspective, any incremental engagement or revenue they might drive is not at all worth the scrutiny, negativity (let’s be honest), or integrity risks that come along with them.
There are more than enough amazing communities – sports, music, fashion, beauty, entertainment, etc – to make a vibrant platform without needing to get into politics or hard news.”
Mosseri’s perspective is both peculiar and concerning for a few reasons. It resembles Facebook’s past descriptions of itself as a friendly and neutral place for people to “connect.” However, Facebook’s actions have consistently incentivized certain content and behaviour, contributing to the current polarisation and extremism in global politics.
As the former head of Facebook’s News Feed, Mosseri is aware of these issues but seems to be drawing the wrong conclusions. Following its failures during the 2016 presidential election and its involvement in hosting the Stop the Steal movement, Facebook opted to rebrand and withdraw. It’s peculiar that Mosseri believes Meta can create a social network that remains neutral and detached from influencing the world.
Certainly, “politics and hard news” will find their way onto Threads, as demonstrated by anti-LGBTQ hate groups like Libs of TikTok. Without Meta’s commitment to counterbalancing forces and addressing extremism and misinformation, these harmful elements will overshadow legitimate news sources that invest resources in the app.
Unfortunately, Meta has little interest in promoting journalism nowadays. The company has a history of extracting what it wants from news organizations while offering little in return. Meta is blocking news access in Canada to protest a new law requiring compensation for publishers, despite its substantial worth of $745 billion.
Besides Meta’s crusade against journalism, Mosseri’s view of the public square is historically inaccurate. Instagram and Threads are designed to merge regular users with brands, encouraging commercial activity at every opportunity. While social media executives often refer to virtual public squares or town halls, these spaces are not solely for commerce but also for culture and political discourse, which are integral to society.
One would think that Mark Zuckerberg, who fancies himself a student of Classics and even named his children after Roman emperors, would understand that the Roman Forum was more than just a marketplace but also a gathering place for political life and news dissemination.
Meta’s insistence on a diminished and commercialized version of public life inundated with advertising aligns with the company’s narrow vision. However, it is disappointing, yet predictable, to see a promising Twitter alternative like Threads showing such little interest in the world at large.