Paying to avoid ads is paying to avoid tracking

    This article is the standard way of reporting Meta’s announcement that, to comply with a new EU ruling, they will allow users to pay not to be shown adverts. It’s likely that only privacy-minded and better-off people are likely to do so, given the size of the charge.

    What isn’t mentioned in this type of article, but which TechCrunch helpfully notes, is that the issue is really about tracking. By introducing a charge, Meta hopes that they can gain legitimate consent for users to be tracked so as to avoid a monthly fee.

    X, formerly Twitter, is also trialling a monthly subscription. Of course, if you’re going to pay for your social media, why not set up your own Fediverse instance, or donate to a friendly admin who runs it for you. I do the latter with

    Icon that looks like the Meta logo
    Meta is responding to "evolving European regulations" by introducing a premium subscription option for Facebook and Instagram from Nov. 1.

    Anyone over the age of 18 who resides in the European Union (EU), European Economic Area (EEA), or Switzerland will be able to pay a monthly subscription in order to stop seeing ads. Meta states that “while people are subscribed, their information will not be used for ads.”


    Subscribing via the web costs around $10.50 per month, but subscribing on an Android or iOS device pushes the cost up to almost $14 per month. The difference in price is down to the commission Apple and Google charge for in-app payments.

    The monthly charge covers all linked accounts in a user’s Accounts Center. However, that only applies until March 1 next year. After that, an extra $6 per month will be payable for each additional account listed in a user’s Accounts Center. That extra charge increases to $8.50 per month on Android and iOS.

    Source: Meta Introduces Ad-Free Subscription for Facebook, Instagram | PC Magazine

    Image: Unsplash

    AI, domination, and moral character

    I don’t know enough on a technical level to know whether this is true or false, but it’s interesting from an ethical point of view. Meta’s chief AI scientist believes that intelligence is unrelated to a desire to dominate others, which seems reasonable.

    He then extrapolates this to AI, pointing out that not only are we a long way off from a situation of genuine existential risk, but that such systems could be encoded with ‘moral character’.

    I think that the latter point about moral character is laughable, given how quickly and easily people have managed to get around the safeguards of various language models. See the recent Thought Shrapnel posts on stealing ducks from a park, or how 2024 is going to be a wild ride of AI-generated content.

    Fears that AI could wipe out the human race are "preposterous" and based more on science fiction than reality, Meta's chief AI scientist has said.

    Yann LeCun told the Financial Times that people had been conditioned by science fiction films like “The Terminator” to think that superintelligent AI poses a threat to humanity, when in reality there is no reason why intelligent machines would even try to compete with humans.

    “Intelligence has nothing to do with a desire to dominate. It’s not even true for humans,” he said.

    “If it were true that the smartest humans wanted to dominate others, then Albert Einstein and other scientists would have been both rich and powerful, and they were neither,” he added.

    Source: Fears of AI Dominance Are ‘Preposterous,’ Meta Scientist Says | Insider

    Meta may really be exiting Europe as soon as this year

    Well, we can but hope. The backlash from Instagram-obsessed people would be too much for politicians to bear, however…

    Meta has—as it must—warned its investors that it’s in deep trouble in Europe. It’s neither a threat nor a bluff, but rather a statement of fact: without a successor to the U.S.-EU Privacy Shield deal, which the EU’s top court nuked a couple of years back, Facebook and Instagram will be forced to pack up and abandon the European market.

    Indeed, this uncomfortable reality was made clearer last month, when Ireland’s privacy regulator submitted a draft decision to its EU peers that would ban Facebook and Insta from transferring Europeans’ personal data to the U.S., because there is no longer any legal basis for these transfers to continue.


    I find it astonishing that even Facebook’s critics, let alone the markets, haven’t glommed onto the reality of the situation. I suspect the culprit is a deep-seated notion that Mark Zuckerberg’s all-powerful company can somehow fix this by modifying its legendarily bad privacy behavior—as though it had some brilliant solution hidden up its sleeve, just waiting until the last possible second before pulling it out.

    Source: Even Meta’s critics don’t grasp how likely it is that Facebook and Instagram will soon have to exit Europe | Fortune

    Image: created using Midjourney