Instagram’s Threads Could Be Regulated by Online News Act: Minister

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Canada’s Heritage Minister, Pablo Rodriguez, has hinted at the possibility of regulating Instagram’s Threads under Bill C-18, the Online News Act, which mandates Google and Meta to compensate publishers for linked or repurposed content.

When asked about potentially incorporating Meta’s latest social network under the act, Rodriguez replied, “that’s going to be eventually included in the regulation.” He further added, “It could be captured by the bill. We’re looking at that,” suggesting a more detailed plan as they come up with final regulations, reported The National Post on Wednesday.

Threads, which is Meta’s Twitter competitor, has amassed at least 100 million sign ups since its recent launch. The app allows Instagram users to instantly sign up by using their same login. It’s unclear how long the Threads honeymoon will last.

The Online News Act has resulted in a contentious back-and-forth between the federal government and tech giants. Both Meta and Google said they would block Canadian news in Canada on their platforms to adhere to the new law, instead of paying publishers.

Rodriguez recently withheld the federal government’s annual $10 million advertising budget from Meta’s platforms. Similar actions were taken by Quebecor, Bell Media, Torstar, Cogeco, Postmedia, as well as the Universite de Montreal.

However, Rodriguez has refrained from applying similar measures to Google, given its willingness to continue negotiations and the belief that its concerns will be addressed through regulations still being formulated.

“Google decided to stay at the table and keep discussing with us. Meta took the bully approach and decided not to discuss with us anymore,” Rodriguez stated. He noted that the discussions with Google have been “open, frank discussions” and seemed optimistic about their direction.

On Monday, Rodriguez introduced a proposal outlining a financial cap on the amount Google and Facebook would be obligated to compensate media companies, calculated based on the platform’s estimated Canadian revenues.

The proposal also allows non-monetary offerings such as training to count as exemptions, and attempts to clarify the definition of a “significant portion” of independent local news businesses, Indigenous news outlets, and official-language minority community news outlets.

Despite the ongoing tension, Rodriguez remains open to discussions with Meta. “We don’t want confrontation. We were very disappointed by Meta’s attitude, which is in our opinion, irresponsible,” he expressed, inviting Meta to come back to the negotiation table.

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