Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg has announced that Facebook and Instagram will implement the one thing absolutely nobody was calling for: paid-for verification on both platforms.
"This week we're starting to roll out Meta Verified – a subscription service that lets you verify your account with a government ID, get a blue badge, get extra impersonation protection against accounts claiming to be you, and get direct access to customer support," Zuckerberg wrote on Facebook on Sunday.
"This new feature is about increasing authenticity and security across our services. Meta Verified starts at $11.99 / month on web or $14.99 / month on iOS."
He added that the service will be rolled out this week in Australia and New Zealand, with more countries to follow "soon".
Facebook users reacted with broadly the same concerns as when Twitter launched the paid-for verification scheme (several times) last year.
"Call me crazy but I don’t think I should have to pay you guys to take down the accounts impersonating me and scamming my followers," one verified user wrote. "95% of the accounts I report for impersonation yields no results from your platform and I know I’m not the only one."
As with Twitter, people are not happy with having to pay for protection against impersonation. The comments were also not keen on paying for access to customer support.
"Pro tip: read Mark's post in a Joe Pesci voice to make it sound even more like a protection racket," cartoonist Rob DenBleyker added.
Zuckerberg responded to one user who said that these features should be part of the core product, stressing that lower levels of protection will continue to be provided for free.
"We already provide protections and some support for everyone," he wrote. "But verifying government IDs and providing direct access to customer support for millions or billions of people costs a significant amount of money. Subscription fees will cover this and will also pace how many people sign up so we'll be able to ensure quality as we scale."
While the roll-out of paid verification on Facebook and Instagram may seem pointless, or an attempt to make money from services that should or used to be free, Meta probably won't encounter the same type of problems experienced on Twitter.
For one, Meta has not talked about de-verifying notable accounts that don't want to subscribe to the service, making impersonation less of an issue. Additionally, Facebookers don't use Facebook like Twitter users use Twitter. Though there are many creators who use the platform, it is set up more for keeping up to date with friends, videos and memes, rather than Twitter's public discourse (or cage-fight for clout, depending on your perspective) strategy, where the appeal of a little blue status badge has more obvious appeal.
Twitter's own paid-for service Twitter Blue has so far earned an estimated $27.8 million, noted by Quartz to be less than 3 percent of the interest Elon Musk owes on his loans each year.