Meta to close Threads in Turkey to comply with injunction prohibiting data sharing with Instagram

Meta said on Monday 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, noted on March 18 that its investigations found that Meta was abusing its dominant market position by combining the data of users who create Threads profiles with that of their Instagram account — without giving users the choice to opt in.

This is the latest in a long line of regulatory battles Meta has faced in the European region. The company was hit with a $267 million fine over WhatsApp GDPR breaches in the European Union (EU) in 2021, and it was also forced to sell Giphy, which it had acquired for $400 million, to Shutterstock for $53 million on the grounds that the deal reduced competition.

Meshing data

This new skirmish isn't without precedent.

In 2022, Turkey imposed an $18.6 million fine on Meta 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 noncompliance with the previous order. The TCA argued that a notification message that Meta sent to users about its data-sharing practices was insufficient and lacked transparency.

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 since amassed a reported 130 million users, Meta has faced perennial criticism 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 mechanism for those wishing to ditch their Threads profile only. To become compliant with regulations in the EU, Meta initially delayed the launch of Threads in the region and introduced a "view without profile" feature for the EU market last year when it finally launched the service, giving users limited access to the social network without having to create an account.

Turkish regulators had announced the investigation on the way Meta linked Threads with Instagram in December, 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.

This leads us to today's announcement that Meta will pull Threads, temporarily at least, pending further discussions and legal resolutions with Turkey.

"We disagree with the interim order, we believe we are in compliance with all Turkish legal requirements, and we will appeal," Meta wrote in the 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 buildup 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 when and if Threads is available in the country again.