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How the EU ban on targeted ads could affect social media platforms


If you use social media in Europe, you may see changes in your social media experience, especially with regards to ad targeting.

Indeed, European lawmakers have voted to ban online advertising based on sensitive information.

So how exactly could this affect social media platforms? Keep 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 first bill known as Digital Services Act which aims to fight against the invasive advertising practices of big technologies.

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 in the future, these services will need to make it easy for you to opt out of tracking and will need to change how they choose which ads to show you.

Related: Why do you keep seeing the same ads?

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

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


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

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

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

When you opt out of these targeted advertisements, social media platforms must ensure that you always have alternative options for accessing their services. In other words, Instagram can’t trick you into opting in to being followed so you can see 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 choice.

Related: How to Reduce Targeted Social Media Ads

The bill also included an amendment that would prohibit social media sites from targeting advertisements to minors based on their personal data, i.e. any data that can be linked to the individual (unlike data sensitive).

Finally, social media platforms will have to remove illegal content such as hate speech and products such as counterfeit products online, all with the aim of ensuring user safety.

As noted in the European Parliament press release:

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

The European Parliament wants to make social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram safer for users. That’s why it cracks down on these online platforms, with a focus on ad targeting.

The United States has also cracked down on social media platforms over their so-called unfair business practices and privacy concerns.

This is important because social media platforms make tons of money from ads, all thanks to their ad targeting strategies and how they get user data, which isn’t always in the best interest of users.

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