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Facebook charges users to send messages to celebrities

Facebook

By Nicole Kobie

Posted on 8 Apr 2013 at 10:28

Facebook has confirmed it is considering charging UK users to send messages to people who aren't on their friends list, in a bid to prevent spam.

The plans first slipped out earlier this year, with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg charging $100 to contact him. His charge has since been scrapped, but Facebook has already started rolling out the system in the US, trialling a fixed $1 per message.

In the UK trials, sending a message to a regular users who isn't a friend costs an average of 71p. Celebrities - or anyone with many users - will cost more, on a sliding scale of how popular they are, up to £10.68, according to The Sunday Times.

The price depends on how many followers the person has and how many messages they receive, rather than a base measure of how famous they are in the real world.

Facebook users can still send a message to a celebrity without paying, but it will be automatically directed to the "other" folder, which makes it less likely Lady Gaga or David Beckham - or their social media staff - will see it.

Facebook's celebrity fees

Want to send a message to Tom Daley? The Sunday Times has revealed the costs of contacting famous Britons - or their girlfriends - over Facebook:
- Olympic diver Tom Daley: £10.68
- rapper Snoop Dogg: £10.68
- author Nick Hornby: 71p
- Prince Harry's girlfriend Cressida Bonas: 71p
- Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt: 71p

A spokesman for Facebook said: "The system of paying to message non-friends in their Facebook inbox is designed to prevent spam, while acknowledging that sometimes you might want to hear from people outside your immediate social circle."

"We are testing a number of price points in the UK and other countries to establish the optimal fee that signals importance. Part of that test involves charging higher amounts for public figures, based on the number of followers they have," the spokesman added. "This is still a test and these prices are not set in stone."

CentMail spam blocking

This isn't the first time a charge has been mooted as a way to beat spam. The idea of a small charge to ensure email gets through has been debated for the past two decades, with Yahoo and AOL considering the idea in 2005, and CentMail launching in 2009, donating to charity all the money it gathered with its "penny email stamps".

The system attaches a one-cent charge to legitimate email, to help sort it from spam. As CentMail points out: "since spammers send millions of emails every day, it is prohibitively expensive for them to donate even just 1¢ per email."

That raises the point of why Facebook is charging so much to prevent spam, and why it's offering a sliding scale for celebrities.

One analyst told Sky News the plans appeared to be the first step to slowly introducing other charges to the site, while comments from users on Twitter and news sites have suggested some see the move as a way to boost revenue rather than block spam, or a way to get users' credit card details on file. It also raises the risk that children using the site will rack up bills by sending messages to their favourite celebrities.

The message charging system is currently a trial, and not available to all users.

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User comments

I want a $100 for every unsolicited post!

Facebook pimp my PC as their own personal advertising whipping boy, so why should anyone else be different?
Celebs (if there is such a thing) have the same option as me - don't use FaceBook if you don't want to use, well, FaceBook...
If you subscribe to "social media" then expect to be followed, pestered and messaged out the wazoo, with everything you ever posted subject to scrutiny.

By cheysuli on 8 Apr 2013

Barefaced profiteering

This can't be anything but a money making scheme. A simple way to prevent spam would be to limit users to 10 messages a day to non-friends a day (refunded if they reply back). There goes spam unless someone wants to create tens of hundreds of accounts and I can't see many people sending more than that.

As for the celebrity charge, I'm not actually against it if most of the money goes to the celebrity in question. Facebook should call it what it is: making money from it's client base and allow celebrities to reduce/remove the charge. This would allow them to control how many messages they want (more costs = less messages) and I would expect most genuine celebs to donate the money to charity.

I can't help but feel Facebook is slowly moving to the dark side...

By josephlck on 8 Apr 2013

I'd be more interested in finding out just how much of a cut the celeb/business that receives the message will get. Sounds like FB are trying to make a living out of other peoples fame, and while its a nice idea (for FB) I'd imagine it wouldn't be long until the lawyers/agents try to get their cut.

By Shuflie on 8 Apr 2013

The more I read about the changes made to the FB user experience, especially since the ipo, the happier that I closed my account a while back. Reminds me of the fairy story about the the goose that laid the golden egg.

By ballem on 9 Apr 2013

I don't see how Facebook can give any guarantees that the "celeb" actually personally logs in and sees any of the messages. Just as they would contract out running an official website, they surely contract out running a Facebook page.

By halsteadk on 9 Apr 2013

I totally agree with @josephlck - limiting the number of outgoing messages to non-friends that someone can send is surely a spam deterrent!?

Facebook's monetization think tank isn't much cop.

By alvin on 10 Apr 2013

Business Accounts

So what about all the business accounts, specifically the ones that sell directly to us? Most Tv adverts now push their FB address rather than their website, so if we enter a competition or get in touch we have to pay?

I have a very dormant FB page but after my 9 year old car failed the MOT on a rotten chassis I fired up the account, got bombared by welcome back emails but was able to leave a message on the cars FB page warning people to be aware of the long term issues.

People use FB to have a moan.

Perhaps people will get their lives back!!

By Tezfair on 11 Apr 2013

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