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Facebook and Instagram consider paid, Ad-free plans in Europe

Meta reportedly won't make its AI advertising tools

Meta is reportedly considering introducing a paid subscription option for Facebook and Instagram users in Europe, as reported by The New York Times. This move is aimed at addressing the strict data regulations imposed by the European Union (EU), which have significantly impacted Meta’s data-collection practices, one of its primary sources of revenue. In fact, Meta disclosed in April that advertising in the EU accounted for just 10 percent of its total earnings.

This potential shift would mark a departure from Meta’s traditional business model, which revolves around providing a single free platform supported by advertising (and the subsequent data gathering). Nevertheless, Meta intends to maintain free versions of Facebook and Instagram with ads in the EU.

As for the specifics of when these ad-free subscription tiers might be rolled out and their pricing structures, those details remain undisclosed at this time.

Sources within the company, referred to as “insiders” by The New York Times, believe that offering a paid, ad-free alternative could help ease concerns raised by European regulators, even if the uptake by Facebook and Instagram users is limited. They suggest that this optional tier could align with Meta’s strategic interests in the region.

Introducing an ad-free option for European users would signify one of the most significant divergences in consumer tech between the EU and the US.

Meta, along with other social media platforms, has had to adapt to the evolving regulatory landscape, including the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and other related rules.

In May, Meta incurred a €1.2 billion fine from the EU for transferring EU citizens’ data to servers located in the US. Additionally, the company faced a €265 million fine in 2022 for its failure to prevent the exposure of millions of Facebook and Instagram users’ mobile numbers and other personal data online.

Columbia University law professor Anu Bradford, when commenting on these developments, noted, “This demonstrates that tech companies are complying with the E.U.’s digital regulations, suggesting that they remain accountable to governments, and not the other way around,” as reported by The New York Times.

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