If you live in the European Union, you may eventually have the option of shelling out cash to use Facebook and Instagram without ads.
Meta, the owner of both social media apps, is struggling under the EU’s regulatory scrutiny of the company’s privacy and advertising practices. In response, Meta is considering creating a paid subscription option for EU residents that will offer an ad-free experience on one or both apps, according to The New York Times. It’s unclear at this point when an ad-free tier would launch or how much it would cost.
Meta wasn’t immediately available for comment.
The idea of paying to access your social media account sounds alien, given how these services have been offered for free since their inception. Instagram and Facebook both exploded in popularity partially because you could sign up with little restrictions. A paid tier could serve as a test of how loyal users are – or aren’t – to either platforms.
Like many apps, Facebook and Instagram generated a vast majority of its revenue from ads on the platforms. A paid subscription would help recoup potential losses while keeping the company in compliance with EU regulations. Like X, subscriptions wouldn’t be mandatory, so Meta is taking a bit of a gamble that people will pay for the apps, but given how interwoven daily life is with social media, it might get some takers.
In the years following the enactment of Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation, GDPR, legislation, Meta has come under fire in the EU for how its ad-based services rely on people’s data.
In May, the EU slapped Meta with a €1.2 billion fine for transferring EU citizen’s data to US-based servers. The following month, the EU’s highest court forbade Meta from combining collected user data across its platforms, outside websites and apps without explicit consent from the user. This January, Irish regulators fined Meta €390 million for forcing users to accept personalized ads to use Facebook.
Last year, the social media company was fined €265 million for allowing millions of Facebook users’ mobile phone numbers and other data from being illegally obtained and posted online.
Regardless, Meta’s consideration of paid subscriptions could mean more users will see apps redesigning to comply with data and privacy laws.