Threads is supposedly the ‘Twitter-killer’; the new app from Meta (Facebook), which its owner Mark Zuckerberg is hoping will kill off the Elon Musk-ravaged Twitter once and for all.
It’s had a promising start, with more than 100 million people signing up for the service in its first week. But if you live in the EU, you have a problem because Threads has not officially launched there yet.
This is all down to the huge complexities in EU-law, which Meta are yet to iron out and, as a result, many in the EU are missing out on the latest online trend.
Many, but not all, because as we have already explained in our guide, How to Unblock and Access Threads Anywhere, it is actually quite easy to use Threads in the EU with the help of a VPN connected to the UK or another country where Threads is already live.
Meta’s Threads now unavailable even with a VPN
At least it was, because Meta has now announced that it is blocking all EU-based internet users from using a VPN to access Threads.
In a statement, Meta said, “Threads is not currently available in most countries in Europe and we’ve taken additional steps to prevent people based there from accessing it at this time. Europe continues to be an incredibly important market for Meta, and we hope to make Threads available here in the future.”
While the statement does not specifically say that it is blocking EU-based VPN users, there have been numerous reports coming out of multiple EU countries of users being unable to access Threads, even when connected to a VPN, as we recommended in our guide.
So, what’s going on?
How is Meta blocking EU-based VPN users?
Given that Meta has not confirmed it is blocking VPN users, it will come as no surprise to readers to learn that there is no official confirmation of exactly what the company is doing to try and prevent VPN users inside the EU from accessing Threads.
There are a couple of possible steps they could realistically have taken.
The most likely technique they could be deploying is to place a full-on block on the IP Address ranges of the majority of most popular VPNs.
This is very much like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut however and would have the knock-on effect of blocking all non-EU VPN users as well. Such an approach would be pretty awful for the privacy of Thread’s users, but as most readers will know already, user privacy has never exactly been at the top of Meta’s (Facebook) list of priorities.
The other approach they could be using is to geo-locate individual Threads users using GPS and other means. This, again, could work, but there are a number of VPNs, such as Surfshark VPN, which deploy GPS spoofing to enable their users to circumvent this.
It is too early at this stage to have data to confirm which of these approaches Meta is using. We also don’t know how widespread an impact the move is having as of yet, but we are aware of a good number of individual cases that have been reported online.
Can VPN users still access Threads from the US?
At the time of writing, the answer to this question appears to be that some can, and some can’t at the moment.
Our advice to those currently struggling would be to stay patient for a few days. When services like this decide to try and block VPNs, they often enjoy a short period of success when they first implement their policies.
But it is fair to say that it doesn’t take most premium VPNs long to work out how their users are being blocked and to find a workaround for the problem.
So, sit tight for a few days, and keep an eye on the advice coming out of your VPN provider. For many, it won’t be too long before they are either telling you their service now works with Threads or providing you with a guide on what you need to do to unblock it.
Whether you want to continue to use Threads is another question. Despite its initial popularity, monitoring suggests that the number of active Threads users in its second week has already dropped by 20% compared to the opening week, and the time being spent on the app is declining noticeably as well.
As a Meta (Facebook)-owned app, there will always be privacy concerns too. Indeed, it is these which are at the heart of the ongoing legal concerns with the EU.
Essentially, the extent to which Threads tracks its users is concerningly broad. The app collects a huge range of personal data, including highly sensitive information such as health and financial data, precise location, browsing history, contacts and search history.
EU law demands that there is a valid legal basis for collecting such data, while the block’s Digital Markets Act also places limitations on how this data can be used for advertising, which is Meta’s primary use for it (officially at least).
If you do want to use Threads, we would advise that a VPN should be switched on at all times to mitigate some of the numerous risks to user privacy that this app has.
If you can’t use it with a VPN, as we have said, patience is a virtue. Or there are other apps out there. For all its many flaws, Twitter may still be a better option. But Mark Zuckerberg won’t thank me for telling you that.