Meta may offer ad-free subscriptions to Facebook and Instagram in Europe

Meta may offer ad-free subscriptions to Facebook and Instagram in Europe


Social media giant Meta is planning to roll out paid versions of Facebook and Instagram for its users residing in the European Union (EU) jurisdiction, the New York Times reported on Friday (1 September). As per the report, Meta may offer ad-free subscriptions to its users in Europe. Apparently, this is seen as a response to the constant scrutiny of Meta’s platform services by EU regulators.  

Citing three individuals familiar with Meta’s plans, the report suggests that users who subscribe to the paid versions of Facebook and Instagram will not see any ads on these platforms. However, it added that Meta would still continue to offer free versions of the apps with ads in the EU. 

Since Meta’s plan is confidential, these individuals shared details of the supposed plan on the condition of anonymity. They said that those users who pay for Facebook and Instagram subscriptions would not see ads in the apps. 

According to them, this may help Meta tackle privacy concerns and other scrutiny from E.U. regulators. Under this model, Meta would give users an alternative to the company’s ad-based services, which rely on analyzing people’s data. In doing so, Meta has been constantly accused of illegally harvesting or misusing user data for profiteering. 

The people aware of the plan further added that Meta would continue to offer free versions of Facebook and Instagram with ads in the European Union. 

However, the New York Times report didn’t state the potential cost of this subscription model or the timeline of its rollout. 

Notably, offering free social networking services to its users and then selling advertising to companies that want to reach these users has been the core business model of Meta for nearly two decades. 

However, with the new ad-free subscription model, Meta’s plan would be a major shift in how companies will need to redesign their products in order to comply with data privacy rules and other government policies, particularly in Europe.

Meta has been facing legal troubles in relation to user data privacy

Interestingly, Meta has been under scrutiny by antitrust regulators throughout the world, particularly in the EU, for allegedly indulging in anti-market practices and breaches of users’ data privacy. 

Earlier, in July this year, the European Union’s highest court effectively prohibited Meta from combining user data collected through its various platforms. Meta wanted to combine user data gathered from platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp along with that collected from outside websites and apps. The court made it mandatory for Meta to receive explicit consent from users if it wanted to do so.

Prior to that, in January, Irish regulators imposed a fine of 390 million euros on Meta for forcing users to accept personalised ads if they want to keep using Facebook.

The European Commission (EC) initiated an antitrust investigation to probe Meta’s practices in connection to its online classified ads business in December 2022. 

The probe wanted to ascertain whether Meta has abused its market power by tying its Facebook Marketplace service to its social network Facebook. 

Furthermore, Meta has been exploiting its marketplace to threaten nations that challenge or check its anti-market practices. Apparently, the platform earlier threatened to leave the EU altogether if it was no longer able to transfer data about European users to the United States. 

Notably, there was an agreement named EU-US Privacy Shield that allowed for the transfer of data between the two regions. However, in July 2020, the European Court of Justice invalidated it. 

Apart from this, in March 2022, the European Union Parliament passed the Digital Markets Act (DMA). It is a set of rules that regulates large tech companies like Meta. It requires companies to comply with a number of obligations. Significantly, this is a major reason why Meta has not been able to launch its latest app — Threads in Europe as of now. 

Meta is reportedly concerned that the DMA will make it difficult to launch Threads in Europe because in that case, it would need to comply with a number of new rules.



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