Meta mulls ad-free FB, Insta access in India by next year

The move arises from the company’s concerns about how increasing tech regulations worldwide, including in India, could potentially change the way the internet and its services operate (Photo: Reuters)
The move arises from the company’s concerns about how increasing tech regulations worldwide, including in India, could potentially change the way the internet and its services operate (Photo: Reuters)

Summary

  • Ad-free subscriptions for users not willing to give consent for personalized advertisements

New Delhi: Amid talks of launching an ad-free subscription plan to conform to European Union’s user privacy regulations, Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta Platforms, the parent company of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, may consider introducing a similar plan in India by 2024, two executives said.

Internal discussions at Meta regarding a subscription plan for Facebook and Instagram are in preliminary stages, and there’s a possibility of adopting such an approach in the future, the people said on condition of anonymity. The move arises from the company’s concerns about how increasing tech regulations worldwide, including in India, could potentially change the way the internet and its services are operating today, one of the two people said.

“Talks have been held internally to explore monetization options for Meta at a global scale, including India. While the firm is working towards achieving compliance with the recently notified Digital Personal Data Privacy (DPDP) Act, there will be increasing discussions on the best possible ways to achieve compliance with all data regulations. A pilot of a paid ad-free subscription choice for users in India, following a trial in the EU, is likely to happen in mid- or end-2024," he added.

A Meta spokesperson updated their statement two days after this story appeared in print, to deny the development. In a new statement shared with Mint on Thursday, the company spokesperson said, "Meta believes in the value of free services which are supported by personalized ads. However, we continue to explore options to ensure we comply with evolving European regulatory requirements. We have nothing further to share at this time."

On 28 September, Nick Clegg, president of global affairs at Meta, said in an interview with Mint that it had started work on achieving compliance with sub-rules of DPDP Act. “We can implement existing solutions we already have faster than creating bespoke India-specific solutions. Our India team is working with the government stakeholders to implement legislative recommendations under the DPDP Act as rapidly as we can, based on expectations that have been set for us."

On 2 October, The Wall Street Journal was the first to report Meta’s plan to offer an ad-free subscription tier in the EU for users not willing to give consent to Meta’s user tracking-based personalized ads, which is its primary revenue source. The plan could be introduced at $14 (~ 1,150) a month for access to Instagram on mobile devices, and $17 (~ 1,400) a month for desktop access to both Instagram and Facebook.

Meta offers a paid verification programme both in India and around the world. After announcing a trial on 19 February and a public rollout in global markets on 17 March, it announced access to a verified badge on platforms at 699 a month on mobile devices. A cheaper, 599 plan for purchasing the subscription on web is also expected to be rolled out in the coming months.

A bundled subscription plan may be what Meta is looking at for its ad-free access trial, both executives said. However, they could not shed light on the potential pricing of Meta’s paid ad-free access plans for India.

Experts said paid models will become increasingly common with the launch of stringent data regulations worldwide following Elon Musk’s decision to introduce a 999 per month ‘X Premium’ subscription plan after his takeover of Twitter. Recently, Jaspreet Bindra, founder of Tech Whisperer, said users will have to choose between free services in exchange of consenting access to their internet footprint, or pay for services such as social media.

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