Meta’s New Facebook and Instagram Subscriptions Aren’t About Making Money

Animage of meta hq in America where ad free subscriptions to facebook and instagram are launching

Meta has revealed that it will soon be offering ad-free subscriptions to its social media platforms Facebook and Instagram in Europe. For the low, low price of €9.99 ($16.65) for desktop users, or €12.99 ($21.66) for app users, you’ll be able to browse to your heart’s content without the interruption of ads in your feed.

The fee will cover all of your linked social accounts in the Meta ecosystem until March when Meta will start charging an extra €6-€8 for each additional account you want to cover.

The move is not unusual. Everyone nowadays seems to want to cash in on the eternal subscription model — the slow drip-drip of monthly payments that don’t sound like a lot at the time until you realise what they’re doing to your finances over the years. If the fees sound high, or the idea sounds somewhat like a money-grab, they are but that isn’t what this is about.

Meta is actually rolling out this news subscription model because it recently lost a high court battle in the European Union. Notice how this plan is coming to Europe, with no plans to announce elsewhere? That’s because, in July, it was ruled by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) that Meta’s collection of user data without explicit consent was an unlawful abuse of market power.

Europe has some of the strongest individual data protection laws on the planet and Meta’s practices have clashed with its General Data Protection Regulation framework (GDPR), a landmark ruling that has been in place since 2016. The EU has been on the warpath to reign in the power of big tech companies like Meta, with the July ruling just one example.

In response to the ruling, Meta has to show that they are offering their customers a genuine choice over whether or not their data can be collected to sell advertising – the core pillar of the company’s business function. Introducing an ad-free offering is their way of demonstrating user consent to adverts. If you’re not paying, you’re consenting.

“We believe in an ad-supported internet, which gives people access to personalised products and services regardless of their economic status,” Meta wrote in a blog post announcing the changes.

They also argue that they respect “the spirit and purpose of these evolving European regulations, and [we] are committed to complying with them”.

Their paid option, they wrote, “balances the requirements of European regulators while giving users choice and allowing Meta to continue serving all people”,

It’s not the first and it won’t be the last time the company is in trouble with the EU. In May, the company was fined a record €1.2 billion ($2 billion) for breaching EU data laws. It was ordered to stop sending data gathered on EU citizens over to its headquarters in the US in 2020, which it failed to do. It is currently appealing the fine.

When it was first reported that Meta would be introducing the subscription model, it was also noted that EU regulators were already looking at the subscription charges Meta wanted to bill consumers for the privilege of being ad-free.

Regulators may rule that the charges Meta has put in place are too high to be reasonably considered a viable option for most people.

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