European users can soon 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, European Economic Area (EEA), and Switzerland will be able to opt into the new, premium service beginning in November.
The cost for zero advertisements while accessing sites on a web browser will run 18-and-up users €9.99 (roughly $10.55) per month, while streamlined iOS and Android app options will cost €12.99 (about $13.72) per month. When enrolled, Facebook and Instagram users won’t see ads, nor will their data and online activities be used to customize any future advertising. Starting March 1, 2024, additional fees of €6 per month for the web and €8 per month for iOS and Android will also go into effect for every additional account listed in a user’s Account Center.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Meta is also temporarily pausing all advertising for minors’ accounts on both platforms beginning on November 6, presumably while working on a separate premium tier option for those accounts. But even when anticipating potentially millions of dollars in additional monthly revenue, Meta made clear in its Monday blog post that it certainly hopes many users will stick to their current ad-heavy, free access.
“We believe in an ad-supported internet, which gives people access to personalized products and services regardless of their economic status,” reads a portion of the announcement, before arguing such an ecosystem “also allows small businesses to reach potential customers, grow their business and create new markets, driving growth in the European economy.”
The strategic shift arrives as the tech giant attempts to adhere with the EU’s comprehensive General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and Digital Markets Act (DMA) laws. Passed in 2018, the GDPR is designed to protect EU consumers’ private digital information against an often invasive, highly profitable data industry. In particular, it grants 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 designation of large online platforms—i.e. Facebook and Instagram—as so-called “gatekeepers” beholden to greater consumer legal responsibilities. These include making sure third-parties’ interoperability within gatekeepers’ services, as well as allow smaller companies to fairly conduct business within and without a gatekeeper’s platform. Ostensibly, the DMA attempts to prevent monopolies from forming, thus avoiding thorny antitrust lawsuits such as the ongoing battle between the US government and Google. By offering the new (paid) opt-out, Meta likely believes it will hopefully reduce its chances of earning costly fines—such as a record $1.3 billion fine levied earlier this year.
But if you’re expecting to see a similar premium subscription service announced for US users—don’t hold your breath. Although a number of states including Massachusetts, California, Virginia, and Colorado have begun passing piecemeal data protections, federal bipartisan legislation remains stalled. Companies like Meta therefore feel little pressure to offer Americans easy opt-out paths, even in the form of a monthly tithing.