Millions of users have flocked to Threads, the newly launched social platform by Meta Platforms Inc., which aims to foster “positive, productive conversations.” This move seems to be a direct challenge to the prevalent divisive discourse found on platforms like Twitter and others.
That promise is harder to keep as the app grows in popularity — it has 70 million users to date. That list of early adopters includes some associated with spreading misinformation, disinformation and hate speech on other sites, according to checks by Bloomberg, which have been confirmed by independent researchers.
Some of these users are already testing the limits of the new app, making false claims about the election, casting doubt on the safety of vaccines and vilifying the LGBTQ community.
“We’re already seeing a lot of high-profile accounts that have been known to spread harmful and misleading content,” says Melanie Smith, director of research at the US branch of the Institute for Strategic Dialogue.
Among the new user accounts on Threads: Jack Posobiec, a far-right journalist who has espoused anti-Semitic and white supremacist views; Tim Pool, a YouTube commentator accused of spreading right-wing misinformation; and Chaya Raichik, an anti-LGBTQ influencer and creator of the satirically named Libs of TikTok accounts.
Threads started out with some built-in protection mechanisms against malicious content because its user practices are the same as Instagram’s. When people click to follow accounts that have been previously flagged for spreading misinformation, for example, Threads displays a warning asking if they’re sure.
Meta, the largest social media company that also owns Facebook and Instagram, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether it was aware of user Thread accounts that had spread disinformation or hate speech on other platforms.
For example, Posobiec has already posted insults to transgender people on Threads, falsely claiming, “The 2020 election was rigged and everyone knows it.”
Raichik, who goes by the username Libs of TikTok, also took swipes at the new app for transgender people, relishing the possibility that her posts might spark controversy. “I love that my existence on this app triggers the left so much,” she wrote shortly after signing up.
At least one member of the Disinformation Dozen, which refers to some of the most influential purveyors of false claims about Covid-19 and its vaccines, has also created the accounts. Although Dr. Joseph Mercola hasn’t posted any vaccine-related content in the days since Threads launched, his account on Threads had already amassed nearly 7,000 followers.
Several far-right news outlets have also joined the app, including the verified accounts of Breitbart News and The Gateway Pundit, but have yet to publish much.
The Threads account for Real America’s Voice TV’s War Room program, hosted by former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, shared a clip on Threads Thursday featuring Naomi Wolf accusing a prominent pharmaceutical company of fraud when it applied for emergency approval for its Covid-19. vaccine.
Several verified accounts linked to the state-run Russian news agency Sputnik had also created Threads accounts, but most had not yet posted.
Meta officially launched Threads on July 6th. The platform currently limits the ways in which a user can find content. Unlike Twitter, Threads users cannot search for specific phrases and must look at the feed, which is decided by Meta’s algorithms. This means that popular users are likely to be heavily promoted by the algorithm.
In Threads, ISD US’ Smith urges users to be careful. “This is a social media application owned by Meta, which has consistently failed to manage and monitor other platforms it owns,” he says.