First up, what is Threads?

Threads is a new app, built by the Instagram team, for sharing text updates and joining public conversations. Essentially it is Mark Zuckerberg’s answer to Twitter. And Elon Musk isn’t happy.

Meta’s Instagram launched Threads on Wednesday, 5th July 2023, in about 100 countries. It’s not available in the EU yet, due to regulatory uncertainty about how the app will use personal data. Currently there is no desktop version. It is only available as a mobile app in Apple’s App Store for iOS devices and in Google Play for Android.

How does it work?

Meta have made it very easy to create an account by using an existing Instagram account. Posts can be up to 500 characters long and include links, photos, and videos up to 5 minutes in length.

Steven Bartlett posts on Threads about how today we are all finding out if we like the Twitter version of our Instagram friends

What is it like so far?

At the time of writing, there are already 68 million users on the platform so things are changing rapidly. Right now, it seems much friendlier than other social networks and there is a buzz of excitement around the untapped potential it offers. Many users are joyfully flocking to Threads from Twitter. There isn’t any way to curate your feed at the moment so it’s chaos and a good idea to turn off notifications.

What are the key moderation and safety features available on Threads?

It’s only been a couple of days so things are still developing but here’s what we know so far: 

  • There don’t seem to be many unique safety features on Threads yet. Instagram largely uses artificial intelligence to moderate content so Threads is likely to have a similar approach to moderation.
  • Everyone who is under 16 (or under 18 in certain countries) will be defaulted into a private profile when they join Threads.
  • Like on Instagram, you can delete comments, control who mentions you and mute people.
  • You can add hidden words to filter out replies to your threads that contain specific words. These settings will also apply to Instagram once set.
  • You can unfollow, block, restrict or report a profile on Instagram and any these settings will apply to both apps.
  • Also, you can only deactivate an account. If you want to delete a threads account you have to delete Instagram too.

A word on accessibility

Very disappointingly, Threads has not included alt text yet. This is poor form from a company as big and powerful as Meta. 

Meta said “The core accessibility features available on Instagram today, such as screen reader support and AI-generated image descriptions, are also enabled on Threads.” but this doesn’t seem to be the case in reality. This post on Threads from RNIB explains how users will need to include a description of images in the main post.

Screenshot of RNIB Threads post. Accessibility is a love note. It says 'we want you here too." A pink hand-drawn looking pink love heart sits above the words. The RNIB See Differently logo is in the bottom right corner.

How are brands and charities using Threads?

Mark Zuckerberg announced there will be no advertising on Threads until it reaches 1 billion users

Brands and charities are using humour to get noticed. There are also already some great examples of charities reaching out and offering support on the platform.

Ladbible meme on Threads - Tobey Maguire in two different films with the caption 'My IG personality and my Twitter personality meeting on threads.'
Aldi UK threads post 'Welcome to the house of fun x'
Marmite the brand replies to someone asking whether there are any marmite lovers out there on threads
WWF UK on threads
Place 2 be offers advice to parents and carers worrying about another social media channel for their children to be on
Mind Charity laments the fact that Threads launched the day the whole social media team is on holiday

It will be interesting to see how Threads develops and we’ll be keeping a close eye on the platform’s approach to online safety over the coming weeks.