Clarification on why Threads didn't launch in the EU

Alex Stamos, Professor at Stanford and former CSO at Meta clarifies why Meta hasn’t launched in the EU yet. Definitely worth a read to clear up some of the assumptions floating around


I think it was pretty clear from the start, they weren’t sure if they could launch in the EU because of the “gatekeeper” rule.

Sources close to Meta said that the tech giant has refrained from rolling the service out in the EU because of what the company believes is a lack of clarity contained in the EU’s Digital Markets Act. Under the Act, companies such as Meta become “gatekeepers”, with restrictions on how they mingle users’ personal data.

On the Hard Fork podcast, the head of Instagram Adam Mosseri clarified why they haven’t launched in the EU:

Yeah. Well, speaking of getting a lot of people to use the app, it looks like Threads isn’t going to launch in the EU right away. What’s going on with that?

There are complexities with complying to laws coming out in 2024. And we want to make sure not only that are we compliant with the laws that are coming out, but that we can also credibly explain how we are compliant in ways that meet our standards of documentation and testing. And that’s just going to take a while, unfortunately.

And I’m particularly frustrated on this point because I’ve been living outside of the US for a year now. I’ve been on a total kick with my teams about stop launching things only in a couple of countries and not in other countries. I meet creators who ask me things like, do I need to move to the US to get access to such and such feature? And it breaks my heart. But in this case, it was either wait on the EU or delay the launch by many, many, many months. And I was worried that our window would close because timing is important.

And the specific rub there, as I understand it, is that the EU’s regulations require some sort of fine-grained disclosures about data sharing between apps and how much Threads data can be shared back with Instagram and with Meta. Is that roughly right? Or what is the specific hold-up there?

It’s not just disclosures and consent. It’s also verifying that there’s no data leakage. You have to put in place processes and technology that all but guarantee that anything you say you can verify in usually multiple ways. And so you have to design that system. You have to build that system. You have to build the testing of that system. And then you have to figure out how to communicate that system.

And we’re just under an immense amount of scrutiny. And any time we make a mistake, even if it was innocuous, even if there’s no one harmed — but if we said something and we didn’t deliver on it, we get hit hard either by the media or by regulators with fines. And so it’s just the liability is too great.