[Updated] Here's how top media outlets and users reacted to Instagram & Facebook potentially becoming paid
New updates are being added at the bottom of this story…….
Original story (published on October 5, 2023) follows:
Meta is planning to offer Instagram and Facebook users in the EU a paid, ad-free version of the platforms. For users to access this version on phones, Meta is considering charging them €13 (£11) per month. On the other hand, it is planning to charge €17 for desktop users to use these platforms without advertisements.
As we know, Meta generates revenue primarily through advertisements. Advertisers pay these platforms for the placement of their ads. They can also use the extensive user data collected by Facebook and Instagram to target specific demographics, interests, behaviors, and more. However, this is where the trouble begins.
As things stand, Meta has been charged with running advertisements in the EU illegally. It is because the tech giant targets consumers by tracking and profiling their online presence without a legitimate legal basis.
Instagram and Facebook to become paid services?
So, Meta has been forced to consider charging for its services in the EU following the July ruling by the European Court of Justice. It stated that “Facebook cannot justify using personal details to target people with personalized ads” without first getting their permission.
Given how frequently people bring up the subject of privacy, the question of consent has been given priority. The insidious ways in which Meta presents adverts, often escape the constraints of consumers’ agreement. Thus, it jeopardizes users’ personal data and privacy.
But since Meta is primarily a for-profit company, that is the only way it makes money. So by complying with the EU regulations, the company proposes to adhere to the rules that threaten to curb its ability to personalize ads for users without their consent and hurt its major revenue source.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the name of Meta’s ad-free plan is SNA. It stands for subscription no ads. Users would have the option of continuing to use Facebook or Instagram for free with customized advertisements or paying for ad-free versions. However, there is a very high likelihood that users will continue to use these platforms for free. Hence, it will assist Meta in complying with rules without having an impact on its ad revenue.
The plan could be introduced next month as Meta has until the end of November to comply with the European Court of Justice ruling.
Check out the major takeaways as highlighted by various media outlets
As pointed out by the news website TechCrunch, Meta now seems to be negotiating towards adopting a strategy to push its surveillance business model past authorities. Accordingly, this would let it continue following and profiling users in the EU unless they pay for their privacy. If this materializes, data privacy will become a luxury only for the wealthy.
It is seemingly unfair and coercive to charge such high fees for ad-free services. And there could also be disagreements amongst people related to Meta’s plan. Personally speaking, this would only prompt users to switch to other platforms.
It’s unfair to compare prices because there are no paid social networks. But looking at YouTube’s and Spotify’s paid plans, Meta’s pricing for Instagram and Facebook does seem quite high. It’s still unclear whether individuals will spend that much money because it’s difficult to leave Facebook or Instagram. But if Meta does charge for ad-free service, it is important to make sure that the free version of the service is still useful and enjoyable for users.
The Digital Markets Act legislation is another issue that Meta will have to deal with. According to the The Guardian, Meta’s platforms will need to obtain explicit agreement before tracking a user for advertising purposes. And the companies covered by the law have already started to act.
I believe that it has made some authorities and privacy activists wary of Meta’s idea. They feel that it may go against the EU law of data minimization principle, which mandates businesses to only acquire the data essential for delivering their services.
TechCrunch appears to be critical of Meta and doubts the effectiveness of this strategy. It inquires as to whether or not paying Meta $14 per month to stop spying on you satisfies the GDPR’s requirements for freely given permission. Additionally, it disregards the fundamental rights framework of the EU, which does not grant safeguards based on a person’s ability to pay.
So, they are basically challenging Meta’s intentions behind the subscription feature. Moreover, it implies that it is not an effective solution for privacy issues.
We previously witnessed a situation with X (fka Twitter) being a paid service in the past, and how it was met with massive backlash. And it seems that the current situation with Meta follows a similar reaction. The first instinct of some users about Instagram and Facebook being a paid service is ‘dark and sad’.
While others are already deactivating their accounts. There are even some who are questioning the need of monetizing the services and are blaming the advertisers altogether. Moreover, it has been claimed that the local social media networks in the EU will eventually replace Meta, if this policy comes into effect.
If we look at the brighter side, paid services might come with stronger privacy protections. Users may feel more secure knowing that their data is not being extensively used for ad targeting or sold to third parties.
Paying users could also have more control over their experience. It will surely allow them to customize certain aspects of the platform according to their preferences.
Therefore, it rests on readers to think critically of this subscription feature and its implications for the future.
Update 1 (October 17, 2023)
02:32 pm (IST): Rival platforms like TikTok and Snapchat are also venturing into ad-free territories, notes Bloomberg. It mirrors the moves of Elon Musk, who hinted at a premium, ad-free subscription for X (fka Twitter). The anticipation is that this premium subscription might come with a hefty price tag, surpassing X’s current $11 per month premium plan, which already cuts down ads by 50%. Linda Yaccarino recently suggested that X would come up with three different tiers of service, each scaling up in cost as the ad interruptions scale down.
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