Meta is proposing to offer European users subscription-based versions of Instagram and Facebook if they would rather not be tracked for ads, a source said on Tuesday.

The idea, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, comes as the social media giant seeks to comply with a growing list of EU regulations designed to curb the power of U.S. big tech.

The company founded by Mark Zuckerberg makes its billions of dollars in profit by offering advertisers highly individualized data on users, but new European regulations and EU court decisions have made that practice harder to do.

The proposal has been put to EU regulators and is another example of big tech companies having to adapt long-held practices to meet oncoming EU rules.

The source close to the matter said subscribers in Europe could pay $10.50 a month for a desktop version of Instagram or Facebook, or $13.50 a month for Instagram on their phones.

Social media platforms have increasingly floated the idea of charging users for access to their sites, whether to comply with data privacy regulations or better guarantee the identity of users.

But the practice would be a major shift for the social media industry that grew exponentially over the past decade on an advertising model that made the site free for users in return for being tracked and seeing highly personalized ads.

The proposal could help meet several regulations, including the Digital Markets Act, which imposes a list of do’s and don’ts on big tech companies in Europe, including a ban on tracking users when they surf other sites if their consent hasn’t been clearly granted.

It also follows the recommendation of the EU’s highest court, which in a July decision said that Meta platform users who declined to be tracked should be offered an ad-free alternative “for an appropriate fee.”

That ruling echoed many previous rulings against Meta and other big tech firms in which the court ruled that the U.S. company must ask for permission to collect large amounts of personal data, striking down various workarounds that Meta had offered.

Meta declined to comment directly on the Wall Street Journal report but said in a statement that it still “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 regulatory requirements.”

Meta reported second-quarter revenues of $32 billion, of which $31.5 billion came from advertising. Some $7.2 billion of that came from Europe.

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Gallaudet University, a private college for people who are deaf and hard of hearing, is preparing to celebrate its 160th anniversary in 2024. In honor of that occasion, VOA visited the university’s National Deaf Life Museum, which celebrates the culture, heritage and diversity of deaf and hard-of-hearing people. Maxim Adams visited the museum. Camera: Aleksandr Bergan

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Russian prosecutors are seeking a 9½-year sentence for a fugitive former state TV journalist who famously stormed a live news broadcast in protest a few weeks after Russia invaded Ukraine.

Marina Ovsyannikova, who formerly worked as an editor at state-controlled Channel One in Russia, now lives in exile in France after escaping house arrest and fleeing Russia with her daughter last year.

Now, prosecutors are demanding the nearly decadelong sentence at Ovsyannikova’s trial in absentia for distributing “fake news.”

This news comes a few days after American journalist Evan Gershkovich marked six months in a Russian jail over espionage charges that he and the U.S. government vehemently deny.

Ovsyannikova’s first protest took place less than three weeks after Russia invaded Ukraine. She stormed a studio of Channel One during a live broadcast holding a placard that read, “Stop the war” and “They’re lying to you.”

The “fake news” charge relates to a protest in July 2022 when she stood on a river embankment across from the Kremlin with a poster calling Russian President Vladimir Putin a murderer.

Since the war in Ukraine began, Moscow has targeted several Russian dissident journalists through trials in absentia over their criticism related to the war in Ukraine. Such criticism is effectively illegal in Russia.

The Russian Embassy in Washington did not immediately reply to VOA’s email requesting comment.

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Hunter Biden pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to three federal firearms charges filed after a plea deal imploded, putting the case on track toward a possible trial as the 2024 election looms. 

His lawyer Abbe Lowell said in court he plans to file a motion to dismiss the case, challenging their constitutionality. 

President Joe Biden’s son faces charges that he lied about his drug use in October 2018 on a form to buy a gun that he kept for about 11 days. 

He’s acknowledged struggling with an addiction to crack cocaine during that period, but his lawyers have said he didn’t break the law. Gun charges like these are rare, and an appeals court has found the ban on drug users having guns violates the Second Amendment under new Supreme Court standards. 

Hunter Biden’s attorneys are suggesting that prosecutors bowed to pressure by Republicans who have insisted the Democratic president’s son got a sweetheart deal, and that the charges were the result of political pressure. 

He was indicted after the implosion this summer of his plea agreement with federal prosecutors on tax and gun charges. The deal devolved after the judge who was supposed to sign off on the agreement instead raised a series of questions about the deal. Federal prosecutors had been looking into his business dealings for five years, and the agreement would have dispensed with criminal proceedings before his father was actively campaigning for president in 2024. 

Now, a special counsel has been appointed to handle the case, and there appears no easy end in sight. No new tax charges have yet been filed, but the special counsel has indicated they could come in Washington or in California, where Hunter Biden lives. 

In Congress, House Republicans are seeking to link Hunter Biden’s dealings to his father’s through an impeachment inquiry. Republicans have been investigating Hunter Biden for years, since his father was Barack Obama’s vice president. While questions have arisen about the ethics surrounding the Biden family’s international business, no evidence has emerged so far to prove that Joe Biden, in his current or previous office, abused his role or accepted bribes. 

The legal wrangling could spill into 2024, with Republicans eager to divert attention from the multiple criminal indictments faced by GOP primary front-runner Donald Trump, whose trials could be unfolding at the same time. 

After remaining silent for years, Hunter Biden has taken a more aggressive legal stance in recent weeks, filing a series of lawsuits over the dissemination of personal information purportedly from his laptop and his tax data by whistleblower IRS agents who testified before Congress as part of the GOP probe. 

The president’s son, who has not held public office, is charged with two counts of making false statements and one count of illegal gun possession, punishable by up to 25 years in prison upon conviction. Under the failed deal, he would have pleaded guilty and served probation rather than jail time on misdemeanor tax charges and avoided prosecution on a gun count if he stayed out of trouble for two years. 

Defense attorneys have argued that he remains protected by an immunity provision that was part of the scuttled plea agreement, but prosecutors overseen by special counsel David Weiss disagree. Weiss also serves as U.S. attorney for Delaware and was originally appointed by Trump. 

Hunter Biden had asked for Tuesday’s hearing to be conducted remotely over video feed, but U.S. Magistrate Judge Christopher Burke sided with prosecutors, saying there would be no “special treatment.” 

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For 31 years Macedonian-born Sasho Cirovski coach has instilled his passion for excellence into the University of Maryland’s soccer program. The result is success on and off the field. VOA’s Jane Bojadzievski reports. Camera, edit: Larz Lacoma

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A court in Spain’s southeastern city of Murcia opened an investigation into a fire that tore through two adjoining discos, killing 13 people. It is the country’s deadliest nightclub fire in more than 30 years.

The discos, Teatre and Fondo Milagros, were popular dance spots, located on the outskirts of town. In January 2022, city officials ordered the venues closed after Teatre’s owner divided the building it was in to establish Fondo Milagros.

The order was disregarded.

The fire erupted just before sunrise Sunday. Authorities said the inferno probably spread quickly through air vents.

A firefighter said that six of the bodies were found clustered in restrooms, perhaps because people were hiding from the smoke, while the other seven bodies were scattered across a mezzanine above the entrance. In the restroom, a wall gave way and covered two of the dead in rubble.

The goal of the probe is to determine whether the fire broke out because of negligence, the city’s top prosecutor Jose Luis Diaz Manzanera said in an interview with La Opinion de Murcia, the local newspaper.

If the tragedy arose from recklessness, he said, those responsible for the deaths could face a maximum of nine years in prison. Diaz Manzanera promised an “exhaustive” search to uncover the truth of what happened.

“We must go centimeter by centimeter, checking everything,” he said. “Let’s see how it ends up. There may have been a short circuit that was not caused by negligence.”

Law enforcement and a team of forensic investigators scoured the site on Monday to gather evidence.

By Monday night, police said that they had identified six victims using fingerprints but that naming the remaining seven would prove “very difficult.”

The victims’ family members have turned in toothbrushes, combs and other toiletries to law enforcement hoping DNA samples can aid in the identification process.

“No father or mother can, or should, have to go through a tragedy like this,” Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Tuesday. He called the eyewitness testimony “heartbreaking.”

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The annual Nobel Prize announcements continue Tuesday in the Swedish capital Stockholm when the winner – or winners – of the physics prize will be revealed. 

The 2022 Nobel Prize in Physics was shared by Alain Aspect of France, John Clauser of the United States and Anton Zeilinger of Austria. 

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, which awards the prize, cited the three scientists for “pioneering quantum information science.”

The committee said each man carried out “groundbreaking experiments using entangled quantum states, where two particles behave like a single unit even when they are separated.”

The Nobel announcements began Monday with the prize in Medicine going to Hungary’s Kataline Kariko and Drew Weissman of the United States for their joint research that led to the rapid development of the mRNA COVID vaccines. 

The Nobel laureates for chemistry, literature and peace will be announced Wednesday through Friday, while economics will be announced Monday. 

All the categories except economics were established in the will of 19th century Swedish businessman Alfred Nobel, who made a fortune with his invention of dynamite.  The first Nobel Prizes were awarded in 1901, five years after his death. 

The economics prize was established in 1968 by Sweden’s central bank Sveriges Riksbank in Nobel’s memory, with the first laureates, Norway’s Ragnar Frisch and Jan Tinbergen of the Netherlands, announced the next year. 

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse.

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U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is facing a threat to his leadership position after a fellow member of the Republican Party, Rep. Matt Gaetz, filed a motion to force a vote on removing McCarthy.

Gaetz filed the motion to vacate on Monday, setting the stage for a vote in coming days.

McCarthy seemingly dismissed the challenge in a post on X, writing, “Bring it on.”

A vote to remove McCarthy would require a simple majority in the 435-member House. Republicans hold control of the chamber with a 221-212 majority over opposition Democrats.

The challenge from Gaetz came days after McCarthy relied on votes from a Democratic bloc to pass a short-term funding measure and avoid a federal government shutdown.

McCarthy became House speaker in January after repeated rounds of voting that saw Gaetz and other Republicans oppose his candidacy. One concession that led to McCarthy’s ultimate election was agreeing to allow any single member to call for a vote to oust the speaker.

No speaker of the House has ever been removed from the post.

Some information for this story came from The Associated Press and Reuters.

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