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Why is Threads unavailable in the EU?

Meta has not clarified why it has no plans to launch in Ireland or other EU states but it is likely to come down to regulation

Meta’s new app, Threads, launched this week to a broadly positive welcome. The Instagram-linked app is being made available in 100 countries globally, but so far has no plans to launch in the EU.

The company has already informed the Irish Data Protection Commission that it has no plans to launch Threads in the EU. But why is Meta leaving the EU out of its immediate plans? The company hasn’t officially commented on the matter, but it is likely to do with concerns over regulations in the EU.

Top of the list is the incoming Digital Markets Act, which will put in place rules on how online “gatekeeper” platforms function in Europe. More guidance on that is expected to come in September.

To a lesser extent, there may also be concerns over processing the data of EU citizens, for which Meta has found itself scrutinised by data protection watchdogs in recent months. The company is currently going through the courts to have a decision, which included a €1.2 billion fine against Meta Ireland for violating European privacy rules, reviewed.


The sanction followed a long investigation into transfers by Facebook of Europeans’ personal data to the US.

Data privacy experts said that was likely to be less of a factor, given that a new agreement between the EU and the US was pending that would create a legal basis to transfer data to US.

However, despite the shutout, there are plenty of EU citizens already using Threads, having found one of several workarounds to get the app on to their devices, including having access to an app store account outside the EU; sideloading it on to an Android device outside the Google Play Store; or using a virtual private network, which spoofs their location to make it appear that they are living in an official Threads market.

So regardless of whether it intends to or not, Meta is processing the data of Irish and EU citizens – and users should be aware of that.

Twitter has threatened to sue Meta over the fast-growing rival app, alleging that it stole trade secrets. A lawyer for Twitter, Alex Spiro, accused Meta of engaging in “systemic, wilful, and unlawful misappropriation of Twitter’s trade secrets and other intellectual property”.

On Threads, Meta communications director Andy Stone posted in relation to the report: “No one on the Threads engineering team is a former Twitter employee – that’s just not a thing.”

US copyright law does not cover ideas so Twitter will need to prove that intellectual property has been stolen if the dispute is taken to court.

Meta chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said more than 30 million people signed up to use Threads in the first 24 hours after its launch.

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien is an Irish Times business and technology journalist