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How EU’s Ban on Targeted Ads Could Affect Social Media Platforms

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If you use social media in Europe, you could see some changes to how you experience social media, particularly when it comes to ad targeting.

That’s because European lawmakers have voted to ban online advertising based on sensitive information.

So how exactly could this affect social media platforms? Continue reading to find out.

European Lawmakers Vote to Ban Online Advertising Based on Sensitive Information

In January 2022, the European Parliament voted to approve the initial draft of a bill known as the Digital Services Act that aims to tackle big tech’s invasive advertising practices.

The bill will prevent online platforms like Google, Amazon, and social media platforms like Facebook from using sensitive information for targeted ads.

The implications are that going forward, these services will have to make it easy for you to opt out of tracking, and will need to change the way they choose which ads to show you.

Related: Why Do You Keep Seeing the Same Ads?

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EU’s ban on targeted ads implies that social media platforms like Facebook and Google cannot use sensitive data to decide which ads to show you.

In other words, these platforms would not be able to target users based on special data categories that allow them to target vulnerable groups.

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This data includes your sexuality, race, religious and political views, and your biometric and genetic information—to name a few.

Online services will have to make it easy for you to opt out of tracking (it shouldn’t be easier to consent than decline), banning the use of “dark patterns” when trying to get you to opt in.

That means that Facebook and Twitter will no longer be allowed to bombard you with “I consent” buttons that are big and easy to see, while their “I do not consent” buttons are either grayed out, hidden or unnoticeable. As reported by the BBC, both Facebook and Google were fined a combined 210m euros in France for this approach.


When you decline these targeted ads, social media platforms must ensure that you still have alternative options to access their services. In other words, Instagram can’t elbow you into opting in to be tracked for you to be able to view posts on its app.

Some other implications are that popular online platforms should provide at least one algorithmic system that is not based on profiling so that you have a choice.

Related: How to Reduce Targeted Ads on Social Media

The bill also included an amendment that would ban social media sites from targeting ads at minors based on their personal data, which is any data that can be linked to the individual (unlike sensitive data).

Finally, social media platforms will have to remove illegal content such as hate speech and products such as counterfeit goods online—all in a bid to keep users safe.

As noted in the European Parliament’s press release:

Online platforms have become increasingly important in our daily life, bringing new opportunities, but also new risks. It is our duty to make sure that what is illegal offline is illegal online. We need to ensure that we put in place digital rules to the benefit of consumers and citizens.

The European Parliament wants to make social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram safer for users. This is why it is cracking down on these online platforms, emphasizing ad targeting.

The U.S. has also been cracking down on social media platforms due to its so-called unfair business practices and privacy concerns.

This is significant because social media platforms make tons of money through ads, all thanks to their ad targeting strategies and how they obtain user data, which may not always be in the best interests of users.



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