It appears the age of paid social media is upon us — for some users. Social media giant Meta just announced Meta Verified, a new paid feature that effectively makes Facebook and Instagram verification (and the security that comes along with it) a pay-to-play feature.
Meta verified supposedly offers verification, security, and customer service features for Instagram and Facebook. And yes, that includes the little check marks next to a user's name. The company said monthly pricing would start at $11.99 on desktop and $14.99 on mobile.
How Meta Verified Will Work
According to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, users who sign up for Meta Verified will first provide a government-issued ID. Once that ID is confirmed by the company, the user will then obtain a blue check mark next to their profile and Meta will begin proactively monitoring against fake accounts and provide direct customer support.
Zuckerberg says "this new feature is about increasing authenticity and security across our services." The company rolled out the service in New Zealand and Australia this week and will be expanding it to more countries soon.
While Meta currently provides some help and protection for users who are impersonated by fake accounts, the process is largely manual — meaning a user needs to submit a report of the fake account and wait for the company to take action. Meanwhile, Zuckerberg says providing security and verification for millions or billions of accounts costs a lot of money, and Meta Verified will cover those costs.
Who Meta Verified Really Targets
It's no surprise the people most likely to be affected by Meta Verified are content creators and people who care about their online profile for more than just casually keeping up. While scammers create fake accounts for all kinds of people, from Beyonce to your grandma, content creators and businesses have the most at stake when somebody impersonates them or hacks their account.
According to Time, nearly one in five U.S. teenagers or adults experienced one of their social media accounts getting hacked or spoofed in the first three months of 2022.
When it comes to people who also use their platform to sell their merchandise or services, losing control of their page or trust of their audience could amount to serious consequences. Meta Verified is essentially a "pay for protection" model most likely to seem most attractive to people who use the platform to earn revenue.
What Critics Are Saying And Learning From Twitter
You probably won't be shocked to learn the overall response to Meta Verified wasn't positive. From cybersecurity experts to users, many decried the announcement as a move that will create two-tiered system of safety that could ultimately leave more users less safe.
As Meta looks for ways to diversify and add revenue among the tech downturn, it raises questions about the overall business model. There's a saying that more or less goes, "If the product is free, you're the product." This approach very much fit most social media platforms, which allowed users to engage with the product for free in order to collect their data and then offer companies the ability to advertise to those users based on their specific interests.
As a result, many companies — probably the most consequential being Apple — made data privacy a selling point to many of their products. As users report privacy and security among their biggest concerns with tech products, Facebook is now hitting back by basically saying, "Ok, then pay for it."
Twitter Blue led this charge a few months ago, also to severe backlash. But even more than backlash, the company's "pay for your checkmark" subscription just hasn't been that popular, with less than .1 percent of all its users signing up for the service. Now Twitter is even threatening to take away basic features like two-factor authentication via cell phone number unless you're a Twitter Blue subscriber.
Will Meta Verified Stick?
It's hard to know if Meta Verified will suffer the same fate as Twitter Blue, which so far doesn't seem to show any signs of being a success. Of course, a lot could change — but Elon Musk's decision to use the stick instead of the carrot and actively remove security features to free users is a slippery slope.
Meta's two flagship properties — Facebook and Instagram — are substantially more popular than Twitter. Between all its platforms, Meta reaches about 4 billion people, or essentially half of the world's population. If Instagram starts actively removing verification from users who don't subscribe, you'll likely see a much bigger adoption than Twitter.
After all, Instagram is still kind of ground zero for influencer culture, and vanity matters there perhaps more than anywhere else on the Internet. Twitter, while important to a lot of different people for a lot of different reasons, is still somewhat niche. For a lot of content creators, they may simply feel they don't have a choice to skip on Meta Verified like they did on Twitter Blue.