Meta and TikTok consider charging users for ad-free experience

Meta and TikTok consider charging users for ad-free experience

According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, Meta is considering charging its European users around $14 a month if they don’t agree to personalized ads on Facebook and Instagram. On mobile devices, the price for a single account would be higher because Meta would factor in commissions charged by Apple’s and Google’s app stores.

European rules require Meta to get users’ consent in order to show them targeted ads, so this seems like an obvious attempt to make up for the lost advertising revenue when a user declines to give their consent. In the past, Meta tried to circumvent the European legislation by claiming in court that showing advertisements was an intricate part of the services stipulated in the user agreement.

A Meta spokesperson said:

“ [the company] believes in free services which are supported by personalized ads, but is exploring options to ensure compliance with evolving regulatory requirements.”

Meta has spoken with digital-competition regulators in Brussels, privacy regulators in Ireland, and other EU privacy regulators about its proposal, according to the report. The company has reportedly named the plan “subscription no ads” (SNA), and it wants to start rolling it out in the coming months.

At the same time, the BBC reports that TikTok is testing a monthly subscription model for ad-free content. The current price during the test for this feature is $4.99 per calendar month. Reportedly, this the test is being done at a small scale and it’s not sure whether a subscription model will be rolled-out globally.

YouTube and X, formerly Twitter, are among sites already offering fewer or no ads for a monthly fee. X Premium promises to show 50% less advertisements on your timelines “Following” and “For you.”  YouTube Premium offers YouTube and YouTube Music without advertisements.

It is unknown if in the SNA model that Meta is trying to agree upon with European privacy watchdogs there will also be restrictions about the information gathering that takes place on the platforms. If not, it is very feasible that you will still get targeted ads based on your Facebook activity, you’d just see them on other sites you visit. If that’s the case, Facebook will make money off your presence on more than one side.

Netflix, Spotify, and others like them, allow you to pay for ad-free movies and music, so maybe the model can easily be ported to YouTube. But whether it will work for social media remains to be seen.

It’s also unknown whether Meta will be offering the same option to users outside of the EU. This may well depend on how successful the formula turns out to be for the company. The announced “Meta Verified” paid verification subscription service wants to provide verification for more than the notable users like politicians, executives, members of the press and organizations to signal their legitimacy.

Obviously it is up to you, if you are presented with a choice, to decide whether you prefer to pay directly, or you’d rather be the subject of targeted advertising. Given that a big part of the population is active on several social media platforms, all the monthly subscriptions would add up to a sum most young people can’t afford to shell out, so there’s a good chance that it will be mostly business as usual for the social media giants.

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Pieter Arntz

Malware Intelligence Researcher

Was a Microsoft MVP in consumer security for 12 years running. Can speak four languages. Smells of rich mahogany and leather-bound books.