Despite distancing itself from politics, the topic is dominating Threads' trends

Meta’s newest app Threads, a would-be Twitter/X rival, may not want politics on its platform, but it’s coming to the app anyway — or so Threads’ search trends indicate. The app began testing its Twitter-like trends feature last month with a small group of U.S. users, but it’s now more broadly available to Threads’ user base across both desktop web and mobile, according to users’ reports. (Instagram says it’s still in testing, however). And with the expansion, it seems the topics that Threads users are talking about the most are, in fact, political in nature.

As of the time of writing, three of the top five search trends on Threads are related to President Biden’s State of the Union address, including people’s reactions to the speech itself, as well as the Republican response and the heckling from Marjorie Taylor Greene.

Image Credits: Threads screenshot

The fact that the SOTU address dominates Threads’ trends indicates that when you present users with a real-time platform, similar to Twitter, where they can dash off quick reactions as short, text posts, they’re likely going to use that platform to talk about whatever the news of the day happens to be. And Thursday’s SOTU invited a lot of commentary, with Biden leaning into polarizing issues that invite discussion, like abortion rights, gun control, taxes, the border and crime, among others.

Meta, however, has sought to distance itself from politics on its platforms for years after weathering criticism that it was favoring one side or the other. In 2016, the company made a change to Facebook’s Feed, to prioritize posts from family and friends over news. In 2022, it even rebranded the News Feed as just “Feed.” The company in the past had also admitted to finding multiple Russian-linked disinformation campaigns aimed at influencing U.S. elections.

More recently, as the U.S. nears election season again, Instagram announced it would no longer “proactively” recommend political content on either Instagram or Threads, upsetting many users who came to Threads, specifically, for a Twitter-like experience after Elon Musk’s takeover of the platform now called X. Creators who post about laws and legislation, elections or other political and social issues, were not happy about this change.

But there’s one area where Threads isn’t (yet) suppressing politics, and that’s in its Trends feature.

Of course, how long Threads will allow political content to remain in its trends section before it’s swapped out for something apolitical is an area we intend to keep an eye on.

Updated, 3/8/24, with Instagram statement. The company confirms the test is ongoing in the U.S. and a bug caused the feature to be seen by users outside the U.S. for a time.  

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