Threads, the Meta-owned Twitter clone that launched this week, will always be hindered by its own content guidelines. The app is dry at best, and at worst, leeching your personal data.
With 30 million downloads in less than a day of its launch, Threads is poised to compete with Twitter’s sheer volume of users.
Though countless text-based social platforms have dazzled users upon launch before fading to obscurity since Elon Musk’s takeover, Threads has the unique advantage of seamlessly integrating with Instagram. Users don’t have to start from scratch when they sign up for Threads — the app gives users the option of automatically following everyone they already follow on Instagram. You don’t have to scour through the rubble of a brand new social platform to find your mutuals, and you don’t have to learn entirely new features since the interface is nearly identical to that of Twitter’s.
And unlike the other text posting alternatives to Twitter, like Bluesky and Spill, Threads is open to anyone who has an Instagram account. There is no scrounging around for invite codes, or desperately adding yourself to a waitlist like you’re vying for a spot on the last lifeboat off a sinking ship.
Threads is positioned to be a beacon of hope in the midst of Twitter’s excruciating, ongoing implosion. Unfortunately, Threads is incredibly boring, and will likely stay that way because it adheres to Instagram’s puritanical community guidelines.
Instagram forbids nudity, including photos, videos and “some digitally-created content that show sexual intercourse, genitals, and close-ups of fully-nude buttocks.” It makes an exception for female nipples in the context of breastfeeding, giving birth, health-related situations like gender affirming surgery, and acts of protest. The guidelines also allow nudity in photos of paintings and sculptures.
Those guidelines are enforced inconsistently, and Instagram is notorious for disproportionately censoring Black women, plus-size users, and trans and nonbinary people. It’s also hostile toward sex workers, and has cracked down on adult content creators who share resources about their industries, much less post raunchy photos. The Instagram account thedancersresource, for example, solicits and posts reviews of strip clubs from actual dancers to warn each other about sketchy clientele, highlight venues that pay well, and share other safety tips. Although the account shares the occasional meme about stripping, its content is entirely safe for work. Instagram has still suspended the account multiple times.
In the 24 hours since it launched, Threads has doomed itself to being a vanilla platform where brands can thrive, but shitposting flounders. It’ll never be a true Twitter rival with such uptight moderation and no guarantee of anonymity. Threads, like Facebook, is for users who probably wouldn’t have used Twitter anyway.
Threads is setting itself up to be a sanitized version of Twitter that employs the most mundane features of the platform while stifling the posting culture that made Twitter so unique.
Casual ass posting was paramount to shaping Twitter culture, as were the unhinged shitposters, the hordes of stans and the discourse stirrers. Even when platform was rife with conflict, the chaotic brand of posting made users want to come back to Twitter. Bluesky, another Twitter rival, was praised for embracing the vivacious posting culture that made Twitter Twitter. Twitter posting is inherently silly — even if it veers toward earnest — and is punctuated by a cynicism that permeates almost all internet humor. But Instagram’s arbitrary restrictions limit that type of posting, and will ultimately keep Threads from truly replacing Twitter.
Threads is setting itself up to be a sanitized version of Twitter that employs the most mundane features of the platform while stifling the posting culture that made Twitter so unique. The users who make Twitter fun, and build the sense of community that defined the platform at its peak, will likely be flagged for violating one of Instagram’s archaic community guidelines if they bring the same energy to Threads. The posts that are allowed on Threads are flat, serious and overwhelmingly local.
In the hours since Threads launched, users fleeing back to Twitter have already complained that they were flagged for relatively innocuous posts. One user complained that they were flagged on Threads for saying they were horny, so “Elon wins this round.” Another said she was penalized for asking if users can “post boob,” which Threads flagged as content that “resembles others that have been reported.”
“Tried calling myself stupid on threads and it got flagged for bullying,” artist Mikaeladraws tweeted. “That place is not gonna handle any of our shit.”
Twitter’s moderation, historically, has been disproportionately enforced, convoluted and just as divisive as any other social media platform’s. In wake of Musk’s takeover, hate speech has skyrocketed on Twitter, and moderation is seemingly nonexistent. Users should be required to abide by basic content guidelines that forbid hate speech and threats, but the heavy-handed censorship that Threads enforces doesn’t make it any more appealing to regular Twitter users.
The lack of anonymity is also a miss for Threads.
The relative anonymity that most users enjoy on Twitter can embolden the worst takes and most toxic interactions, but it also facilitates genuine community. Twitter is especially appealing for LGBTQ users, sex workers, organizers and other marginalized communities that make up the lifeblood of the platform. The faceless nature of Twitter allows users to exist in a bubble of their own interests, and laid the foundation for stan culture to flourish.
Nobody wants to post the way they do on Twitter if it’ll be seen by people they actually know. Users need some degree of separation from their audience for these communities to exist. The uninhibited posting culture that makes Twitter such an enviable platform can’t migrate to Threads because the app is so intertwined with users’ real lives.
For now, users can’t delete their Threads account without also deleting their Instagram account. You can make an alt account if you make a Threads account using a finsta, but users can’t toggle between multiple accounts yet. In a comment asking when Threads will allow multiple accounts, Instagram head Adam Mosseri said “it’s on the list.”
Most people, including myself, compartmentalize their online presence. Instagram, with its curated, polished veneer, is for keeping up with people I know in real life. TikTok is for content about my extremely niche hobbies. Reddit is for diving into reviews of every product I’ve ever thought about buying. Twitter (and all of the clones attempting to rise from its ashes) is for sharing every asinine thought I’ve ever had.
Though some features might translate to other platforms, the spaces that we occupy online determine how we interact with each other, and by extension, the communities that develop on the platform. Threads can establish itself as an alternative to Twitter, but its reach is limited. With such strict content guidelines, it’ll fail to woo the users that make it worthwhile it to stay on Twitter — especially if you can’t post ass.