May 24, 2024

Image for article titled 'It's obviously nice to have Taylor Swift': A Meta executive on Threads playing catch-up to Elon Musk's X

Graphic: Laura Bratton (Canva), Photos: Patrick T. Fallon / AFP, Ashok Kumar/TAS24 (Getty Images)

Meta executive Chris Cox wasn’t braggy about Threads’ recent dominance over Elon Musk’s X during the Bloomberg Technology Conference on Thursday.

Cox, Meta’s chief product officer, gingerly responded to questions from Bloomberg’s Sarah Frier about what differentiates Threads from X. “We have content guidelines and standards on how we operate the platform in a way that we think is good and right,” he said. “I think that’s somewhat different if you look at the platforms.”

“Somewhat different” might be an understatement. Since its launch, Meta’s Threads has positioned itself as a “less angry” alternative to X, and in February it adopted a policy prohibiting the platform from proactively recommending political content. While X’s content guidelines ban the worst kinds of content — hate speech, harassment, sexual violence — Threads’ go a little further for its self-described goal of creating a platform for “diverse community of cultures, ages, and beliefs.” That’s not to say Threads has been without its pitfalls. Users last year complained that the social media app blocked too many terms like “Covid,” “vaccines,” “gore,” “nude,” “sex,” and “porn.” But X’s drawbacks have been far greater: The site has been increasingly called out for becoming a cesspool of hate speech, violent content, and deepfakes since it was purchased by Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

Threads’ distinctions from X helped it surpass X in daily average users: Threads has 28 million, X has 22 million. X still has far more monthly users, but Threads is trying to close that gap. And one pop culture heavyweight who’s helping? Taylor Swift.

“It’s obviously nice to have Taylor Swift,” Cox said. “Because [Threads is] connected to the Instagram accounts … it’s not hard for Taylor Swift to immediately light up her fan base and audience and [connect] to everything that she’s built up on Instagram.”

The popstar joined Threads in April, something Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg was so excited about that he shouted out the news during the company’s most recent earnings call with investors.

“My daughters would want me to mention that Taylor Swift is now on Threads — that was a big deal in my house,” he said last month. Her move to the platform came just two months after deepfake nudes of the star flooded X, calling to attention the dangers of AI-altered images and prompting lawmakers to propose legislation to crackdown on deepfakes. Swift still has an X account with 95 million followers, but only about one-tenth of that number on Threads (9.6 million).

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