Meta has said that it plans to “temporarily” shutter Threads in Turkey from April 29, in response to an interim injunction imposed by the Turkish competition authority last month over the way Meta shares data between Threads and Instagram.

The Turkish Competition Authority (TCA), known as Rekabet Kurumu, issued findings on March 18, noting that its investigations found that Meta was abusing its market dominant position by combining the data of users who create Threads profile with that of their Instagram account — without giving the user the choice to opt-in.

This is the latest in a long line of regulatory battles Meta has faced in the European region, after being hit with a $267 million fine over WhatsApp GDPR breaches in the European Union (EU), while it was also forced to sell its $400 million Giphy acquisition to Shutterstock for $53 million, on the grounds that the deal reduced competition.

Meshing data

More relevant to today’s news, however, was when Turkey hit Meta with a $18.6 million fine in 2022 for combining user data across Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp. In January this year, Turkey’s TCA said it would be issuing Meta with an additional $160,000 fine each day for non-compliance to the previous order, with the TCA arguing that a notification message that Meta sent to users over its data-sharing practices was insufficient and lacked transparency.

So this latest skirmish isn’t exactly without precedent.

For context, Facebook’s sibling company Instagram launched Threads last summer, in large part to capitalize on the exodus of Twitter users following Elon Musk’s controversial takeover. Although Threads has gone on to amass a reported 130 million users today, a perennial criticism has been centered on the way it forces users to create an Instagram account in order to gain a Threads profile.

Initially, the only way Meta allowed users to delete a Threads profile was by deleting their whole Instagram account, though it later introduced a separate delete mechanism for those wishing to ditch their Threads profile only. As part of its regulatory compliance measures for Threads delayed EU rollout, Meta introduced a “view without profile” feature for the EU market last year, giving users limited access to the social network without having to create an account.

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Meanwhile, Turkish regulators announced a renewed investigation in December over the way that Meta linked Threads with Instagram, concluding last month that there was a strong case to answer for. In its provisional report, the TCA wrote:

  • Since META has been operating in the market for many years, it has a comprehensive and detailed data accumulation.

  • The size and diversity of META’s user base makes META services attractive for advertisers.

  • This situation allows META to allocate more resources for service development and makes it difficult for competitors to access advertisers and therefore financial resources, and in this context, META’s activities create an entry barrier in the market.

  • In addition, META operates as an ecosystem with the basic services and related services it offers, and this enables META to transfer the power and knowledge it gains from each service to another service and increases its market power.

And this leads us to today’s announcement that Meta will pull Threads, temporarily at least, pending further discussions and legal resolutions between the two parties.

“We disagree with the interim order, we believe we are in compliance with all Turkish legal requirements, and we will appeal,” Meta wrote in a blog post today. “The TCA’s interim order leaves us with no choice but to temporarily shut down Threads in Türkiye. We will continue to constructively engage with the TCA and hope to bring Threads back to people in Türkiye as quickly as possible.”

In the build up to April 29, everyone using Threads in Turkey will receive a notification about the impending closure, and they will be given a choice to either delete or deactivate their profile. The latter of these options means a user’s profile can be resurrected in the event of Threads being reinstated in Turkey.

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