European users will soon be able to enjoy an ad-free Facebook and Instagram experience – for a price. On October 30, the platforms’ parent company, Meta, announced that residents of the EU, the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland will be able to opt-in to the new premium service from November.
The price for zero ads when accessing sites in a web browser will support 18 and over users €9.99 (approx. $10.55) per month, while the simplified options for iOS and Android apps will cost €12.99 (approx. $13.72 ) per month. When signed up, Facebook and Instagram users will not see ads, nor will their data and online activities be used to personalize future ads. From March 1, 2024, additional charges of €6 per month for web and €8 per month for iOS and Android will also come into effect for each additional account listed in the user’s Account Center.
[Related: Meta fined record $1.3 billion for not meeting EU data privacy standards.]
According to The Wall Street Journal, Meta is also temporarily halting all advertising for minor accounts on both platforms starting November 6th, presumably while it works on a separate premium tier option for those accounts. But even as it expects potentially millions of dollars in additional monthly revenue, Meta made it clear in a blog post on Monday that it certainly hopes many users will stick with their current free, ad-supported access.
“We believe in an ad-supported Internet that gives people access to personalized products and services regardless of their economic status,” reads part of the announcement, before arguing that such an ecosystem “also allows small businesses to reach to potential customers, to expand its business and create new markets, stimulating the growth of the European economy.”
The strategic shift comes as the tech giant tries to adhere to the EU’s comprehensive General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and Digital Markets Act (DMA). Passed in 2018, GDPR aims to protect the personal digital information of EU consumers against an often invasive, highly profitable data industry. In particular, it gives European citizens the right to easily and clearly choose whether or not companies can track their online information such as geolocation, search preferences, social media activity and spending habits.
Meanwhile, the 2022 DMA establishes criteria for determining large online platforms – ie. Facebook and Instagram – as so-called “gatekeepers” responsible for greater legal responsibilities of users. These include ensuring third-party interoperability within the watchdog services, as well as allowing smaller companies to do business fairly within and without the watchdog platform. Ostensibly, the DMA is trying to prevent monopolies from forming, thus avoiding thorny antitrust cases like the ongoing battle between the US government and Google. By offering the new (paid) opt-out, Meta likely believes it will reduce its chances of winning expensive fines – such as the record $1.3 billion fine imposed earlier this year.
[ Related: The Opt Out: The case against editing your ad settings ]
But if you’re expecting to see a similar premium subscription service announced for US consumers – don’t hold your breath. Although a number of states, including Massachusetts, California, Virginia and Colorado, have begun enacting piecemeal data protections, bipartisan federal legislation remains stalled. Because of this, companies like Meta feel little pressure to offer Americans easy ways to opt out, even in the form of a monthly tithe.
For a truly ad-free experience, there is of course always the option to delete your account.