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Meta considers paid ad-free Facebook and Instagram in Europe

Facebook headquarters in Dublin, Ireland

Meta is reportedly exploring the introduction of paid subscription versions for users in the European Union.

The move aims to address mounting regulatory scrutiny and accommodate evolving government policies in the region. 

This offering would allow subscribers to access Facebook and Instagram without encountering advertisements.

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Introducing paid tiers would offer users an alternative to Meta's ad-supported services.

It heavily relies on data analysis, potentially mitigating privacy concerns and regulatory pressure from EU authorities. 

Meta intends to maintain free versions of Facebook and Instagram with advertising in the European Union.

The exact pricing and rollout timeline for the paid versions remain undisclosed, and Meta has declined to comment on these reports.

Facebook and Instagram have been free for two decades

For almost two decades, Meta's core business model has centered on providing free social networking services to users.

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However, it generates revenue through advertising targeted at its user base. 

In July, the EU's highest court effectively prohibited Meta from collecting user data from its platforms unless explicit user consent was obtained.

It includes Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, as well as data from external websites and apps.

Additionally, in January, Irish regulators imposed a €390 million fine on Meta.

It was for coercing users to accept personalized ads as a prerequisite for using Facebook.

These regulatory actions were prompted by the implementation of Europe's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in 2018.

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It’s a landmark legislation to safeguard users’ online data.

Recently, the Digital Services Act in the EU allowed users of TikTok and Instagram to block the use of their personal data for generating customized social media content.

Both Snapchat and Meta have ceased targeted advertising for European teenagers aged 13 to 17.

Next year, another EU law, the Digital Markets Act, would take effect.

It will compel major tech platforms to modify certain business practices to foster competition. 

This legislation would have far-reaching consequences.

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It includes Apple permitting users in the European Union to download alternatives to the App Store on their iPhones and iPads.

EU scrutiny

Meta, which also owns Messenger, has been under heightened scrutiny from EU regulators. 

In May, the EU imposed a €1.2 billion fine on the Silicon Valley firm for breaching privacy laws.

The company was accused of transferring data of European citizens to US servers to enhance its advertising technology. 

Meta has appealed the ruling.

The company has incurred other GDPR-related fines, including €265 million for a 2021 data breach. 

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Irish regulators have also imposed fines of €225 million in a WhatsApp-related case and an additional €17 million in a data leak incident.

Some insiders at Meta believe allowing users to opt out of ad-supported services while accessing paid versions of Facebook or Instagram could alleviate concerns raised by European regulators. 

Even if a small percentage of users opt for the paid version, the availability of this choice could still serve Meta's interests in the region.

Meta has refrained from launching its new Threads app, a rival to X (formerly known as Twitter), in Europe due to regulatory apprehensions.

Europe represents the second most lucrative region for Meta after North America. 

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