Meta is reportedly considering offering paid, ad-free accounts on Facebook and Instagram in Europe in order to take EU data protection regulations into account, among other things. At least that’s what the New York Times reports, citing three anonymous people who are familiar with the plans. A possibility to use the two social networks ad-free for a fee could help Meta to allay data protection and other concerns of the EU regulators, it is thought. At the same time, this could mean that people in the EU and the rest of the world could see two completely different versions of Facebook and Instagram.
Paid subscriptions as an additional offer
Implementing the plans would not mean that the free-to-use versions of Facebook and Instagram would disappear from Europe, the New York Times continues. Instead, it could primarily be a concession to the EU by offering versions without advertising and the underlying evaluation of user data and behavior – even if they might not be widely used at all. According to the US newspaper, it is not clear how much the paid subscriptions would cost and when they might come.
In principle, the plans only roughly described in the article are reminiscent of the so-called “pure subscription models” on German news sites such as heise online. For a fee, the targeting or tracking for profile-based, personalized and targeted advertising can be switched off, which is used to finance the freely available articles there. This approach was found to be fundamentally permissible for Germany in the spring by the federal and state data protection supervisory authorities after some disputes.
If Facebook actually introduces paid subscriptions without advertising, that would probably be the most fundamental change in the business model of the almost 20-year-old company. At its core, this still consists of using free-to-use social networks to lure people into your own services and, for a fee, offering advertisers the opportunity to specifically target them with their ads. If Meta moves away from this – even partially – in Europe, it would make it clear what far-reaching consequences new regulations on the Internet such as the Digital Services Act and the upcoming Digital Markets Act as well as the stricter supervisory authorities can have. Meta had no comment on the New York Times report.
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