Facebook and Instagram (Meta) could charge for ad-free services in EU
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Facebook and Instagram (Meta) could charge for ad-free services in EU

Sources: Meta is looking at charging €13 a month for mobile and €17 for desktop for its social networks

Meta considers EU ad-free subscription fees due to regulations. TikTok may also introduce ad-free fees. Critics worry about access to rights. EU enforces Digital Markets and Services Acts.

Meta, headed by Mark Zuckerberg, is reportedly contemplating the implementation of a €13 (£11) monthly fee for users in the European Union who wish to enjoy an ad-free version of Instagram or Facebook on their smartphones. This strategic move is in response to the increased regulatory scrutiny concerning the company’s data usage policies.

Meta is reportedly contemplating a €17 fee for an ad-free experience on Instagram and Facebook when accessed through desktop computers, as indicated by sources familiar with the ongoing discussions. For users who prefer to use both apps on their smartphones, the combined monthly cost would be around €19.

Also Read | TikTok testing out an advert-free monthly subscription

This strategic consideration comes in response to a pivotal ruling by the European Court of Justice in July. The Luxembourg-based court, acting under Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), declared that Facebook cannot justify the use of personal data to target users with customized advertisements – a fundamental revenue source for the platform – unless it obtains explicit user consent beforehand.

The possibility of using subscription charges as an alternative was mentioned in the court ruling, which suggested the potential for imposing an “appropriate fee” to access an ad-free version.

Facebook and Instagram (Meta) could charge for ad-free services in EU

Meta is currently in discussions regarding these plans with Ireland’s Data Protection Commission, which oversees the company’s operations across the EU since Meta’s regional headquarters are in Dublin. Additionally, conversations are taking place with European officials in Brussels.

In related news, it was reported by TechCrunch on Monday that TikTok is planning to test a subscription service for ad-free access, priced at $4.99 per month for users in an unspecified English-speaking market outside of the United States.

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According to information from the Wall Street Journal, Meta’s ad-free initiative is referred to as SNA, standing for “subscription no ads.” This plan would offer users the choice of continuing to use Facebook or Instagram for free with personalized advertisements or opting for ad-free versions.

The potential introduction of this plan is expected as early as next month, as Meta is required to comply with the European Court of Justice’s ruling by the end of November. However, regulators are reportedly scrutinizing the pricing of these fees to determine if they might be prohibitively expensive for individuals who wish to avoid targeted advertising.

A spokesperson for Meta stated, “Meta believes in the value of free services which are supported by personalized ads. However, we continue to explore options to ensure we comply with evolving regulatory requirements.

Notably, a prominent critic of Meta’s data practices, Max Schrems, who has filed successful legal complaints against Zuckerberg’s platforms, expressed his intention to vigorously oppose these proposals through legal channels if the subscription fees are implemented. Schrems views such fees as equivalent to paying for fundamental rights.

Max Schrems strongly emphasized that “fundamental rights cannot be for sale.” He expressed concerns about the precedent this sets, suggesting that if we start paying for certain rights, it could lead to a scenario where rights such as voting or free speech might also come with a price tag. Schrems highlighted the potential consequence of only the wealthy being able to enjoy these rights, which could be particularly troubling when many people face financial challenges. Introducing this concept within the realm of data protection rights represents a significant departure.

Mark Zuckerberg, Meta’s founder and CEO, previously stated during a Senate hearing that there would always be a free version of Facebook available, but he did indicate that he would be open to considering a paid service.

Most of the time, Meta ventured into the realm of paid accounts by introducing a subscription service that offered certain benefits, including a verified account and direct access to customer support, although it did not provide an ad-free experience.

The European Union has implemented comprehensive new regulations aimed at overseeing the competitive practices of major tech companies, with a particular focus on the use of personal data for targeted advertising, among other business models.

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Under the EU’s Digital Markets Act legislation, Meta’s platforms will be required to obtain explicit consent before tracking a user’s behavior for advertising purposes. Companies falling within the purview of this legislation have already taken steps to comply. In the past month, EU users who opened an app after a period of inactivity were asked whether they consented to have their behavior tracked on their mobile devices for services.

The Digital Markets Act is a subsequent piece of legislation that follows the Digital Services Act, which became effective on August 25th. The Digital Services Act addresses issues such as online hate, child sexual abuse, and disinformation. It represents the first-ever set of laws governing online content and seeks to regulate and mitigate these challenges in the digital space. Together, these two acts aim to establish a comprehensive regulatory framework for the online environment within the European Union.

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