Data Doctors: Facebook’s new monthly charge: Hoax or real?

Q: Is Facebook really getting ready to start charging users?

A: The list of hoaxes that have plagued the world’s largest social media platform continues to grow, but one that has persisted for over a decade is that they will start charging everyone to continue using it.

One of the more common recurring hoaxes claims that Facebook will start charging a monthly fee ranging from $3.99 to $9.99 starting this summer.

The usual sure signs of a hoax include poor grammar, punctuation, the instructions to copy and paste to a new post instead of sharing, and that it’s being reported on television.

Hoaxes rely on users not doing their homework and taking posts at face value, which is unfortunately quite effective.

Until recently, it was easy to tell anyone that anything claiming Facebook would start charging users was a hoax, but all that changed last month.

Facebook Verification Subscription

Meta, the parent company for both Facebook and Instagram, announced on Feb. 19 that they were going to start testing an optional paid account verification service.

The fee of $11.99 per month for computers and $14.99 for smartphones is only available in Australia and New Zealand during their initial tests and seems to be inspired by Twitter’s change to charging $7.99 per month for verified accounts.

There’s no question that Meta’s stock price is down significantly, and it’s not surprising to see this radical shift to generate revenue.

Getting verified used to be free and limited to public figures, but the new verification subscription will allow anyone over the age of 17 to get verified with a government-issued ID to avoid the problems Twitter experienced when it opened verification to anyone.

The claims from Meta are that verified accounts cost the company more and that this approach will limit the ability of scammers to create fake verified accounts.

Human Support

Another feature of this new subscription service is an ambiguous reference to direct access to customer support, which likely would be to address the frustration that millions have when they have a serious issue with their account.

The press release stated that you’ll get help when you need it with access to a real person for common account issues.

Speaking directly with a human for customer support is currently impossible and regaining control of a compromised account is treacherous at best.

It looks like Meta is counting on those that rely on Facebook and Instagram to make money (they refer to as creators) will see the value in paying what some are calling ‘protection money’ for their impersonation protections.

Increased Visibility

They refer to the increased visibility and reach with prominence in some areas of the platform — like search, comments and recommendations, which could be valuable for those creators trying to establish an audience.

Already Verified

The announcement also included this: “As we test and learn, there will be no changes to accounts on Instagram and Facebook that are already verified based on prior requirements.”

It hasn’t been a runaway success at Twitter, but the user base of Facebook and Instagram is exponentially larger, so it remains to be seen if this new subscription will have the desired impact on their stock price.

Ken Colburn is founder and CEO of Data Doctors Computer Services. Ask any tech question on Facebook or Twitter.

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