Meta Platforms, the parent company of Instagram and Facebook, is considering launching a paid subscription option for its users in Europe that would allow them to access the social media platforms without any ads. The move is seen as a response to the increasing regulatory pressure from the European Union (EU) on the tech giant’s data collection and privacy practices.
Why Meta is Considering Ad-Free Subscription?
According to a report by The Wall Street Journal, Meta has submitted a proposal to regulators in Ireland, Brussels, and other EU privacy watchdogs, outlining its plan to offer a subscription no ads (SNA) option to its European users. The company hopes to roll out the SNA plan in the coming months, giving users the choice between continuing to use Instagram and Facebook for free with personalized ads, or paying for versions of the services without any ads.
Meta’s decision to explore the ad-free subscription option comes as the EU has tightened its rules on big tech firms, aiming to protect users’ data and promote fair competition in the digital market. Last month, the EU’s new Digital Markets Act (DMA) designated Meta as a “gatekeeper”, meaning that it has to comply with a set of obligations that limit its ability to combine user data across its various services, such as WhatsApp, Messenger, and Oculus. The DMA also gives the EU the power to impose fines of up to 10% of Meta’s annual revenue or even break up the company if it violates the rules.
Meta has argued that the DMA would harm its ability to provide free services to its users, as well as its innovation and competitiveness in the global market. The company has also faced criticism and lawsuits from privacy advocates and regulators over its data collection and sharing practices, especially after the Cambridge Analytica scandal in 2018, which exposed how Meta allowed a political consulting firm to access the personal data of millions of its users without their consent.
How Much Would the Ad-Free Subscription Cost?
The Wall Street Journal report suggests that Meta plans to charge its European users around €10 (roughly Rs. 870) per month for a desktop subscription to Facebook or Instagram, plus an extra €6 for each additional account. The subscription cost would rise to roughly €13 (roughly Rs. 1,130) per month on mobile devices, due to the fees imposed by Apple and Google’s app stores on in-app purchases.
Meta estimates that it had around 258 million monthly Facebook users and 257 million Instagram users in Europe during the first half of 2023. The proposed ad-free subscription plan aims to offer these users an alternative to the personalized ads that generate most of Meta’s revenue. In 2022, Meta reported a revenue of $94.4 billion, of which $93.2 billion came from advertising.
It is unclear whether the regulators in Ireland or Brussels will approve Meta’s SNA plan, or whether the users in Europe will be willing to pay for the ad-free option. A Meta spokesperson told the WSJ that while the company supports free services backed by personalized ads, it is open to exploring options that meet “evolving regulatory requirements”.