Threads' Instagram 'Trap' Shows Why Facebook Should Have Been Broken Up Years Ago

To delete Meta's new Twitter rival, you also have to delete Instagram.
Image: Getty Images

Threads, Meta’s Twitter rival, launched on Wednesday and people are already trying to deactivate their accounts. The issue is: you can’t deactivate your Threads account unless you delete your Instagram account too. 

“You may deactivate your Threads profile at any time, but your Threads profile can only be deleted by deleting your Instagram account,” the Threads Supplemental Privacy Policy reads


Threads, referred to by some as a would-be “Twitter killer,” is a separate app from Instagram and mimics Twitter’s feed page, full of text-based posts from suggested users. However, you need to log in through your Instagram account to get access to it. The app then imports your username and verification status from your Instagram account and also provides an option for you to import your profile picture, bio, and website information. 

Ironically, critiques of Threads have been trending on Twitter. “I deactivated my threads account already but it turns out you can’t delete your threads account *without also deleting your Instagram account* so maybe just don’t sign up!” writer Emily Hughes said in a tweet that gained over three million views. “Fuck!! I did just to look and immediately hated it but I guess I’m stuck with it now,” author Lilly Dancyger responded. Many have called this Faustian bargain a "trap."

This isn't particularly surprising from Meta, which has long leveraged the reach of its acquired social media companies—Instagram and WhatsApp—to stay relevant and retain users as its flagship product, Facebook, wanes. It also illustrates why so many antitrust experts argued that Meta should have been broken up years ago. 


The creation of Threads follows two antitrust complaints brought by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which aimed to force Meta to sell Instagram and WhatsApp and accused the company of pursuing “anti-competitive conduct.” The FTC first sued Facebook in December 2020, citing its acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp as a move to neutralize competition, and once again in October 2022. Both of these complaints were later dismissed in court. Now, if you have regrets about joining Threads, you have to say goodbye to your Instagram account.

Notably, Threads is not currently available in the E.U. due to concerns regarding data privacy stemming from how Threads and Instagram are linked. According to Bloomberg, citing anonymous sources, Meta is waiting for more guidance around the Digital Markets Act, a new competition law that governs how online platforms use their market platform. 

Deactivating a Threads account means that no users will be able to see your content, but your data will still live in the app’s servers unless the account is deleted, along with the linked Instagram. The app tracks all of the same data as it does on Instagram, which includes health and fitness, location, contacts, search history, and usage data. Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s CEO before Elon Musk, tweeted a screenshot of the Thread’s privacy page, saying, “All your Threads are [sic] belong to us.” 

Aside from being required to delete an Instagram account in order to delete Threads account, people are also upset by the fact that the two platforms are so linked, such as Threads asking if you want to follow all the same people as you do on Instagram when you first make an account. 

Meta has a history of copying the style of trending or existing apps. Instagram’s Story features come from Snapchat, while its Reels feature comes from TikTok. Two of the most followed Instagrammers, Kylie Jenner and Kim Kardashian, even launched a petition asking Meta to “stop trying to be tiktok.”  In July 2022, Meta released a feature called Dual that looked a lot like the up-and-coming social platform BeReal. Although the company's monopolistic aspirations have undoubtedly faded after years of failing to innovate and chasing ill-advised trends like the metaverse, Threads shows how it's still willing and able to leverage what remnants of its empire remain.