Facebook is reported to be testing out a new money-grabbing feature on its social network, charging users a $1 fee to send messages directly to the inbox of non-friends, thus ensuring they’re not labeled as spam.
The pilot scheme is currently only available to users based in the US, and so far can only be used by individuals, which thankfully means that brands can’t pay to spam our inboxes – yet!
According to the Facebook, the scheme basically makes sure that messages land directly in a user’s inbox, which means they’ll be seen as soon as the intended recipient logs into Facebook, rather than going into the seldom-visited ‘Other’ folder.
Here’s Facebook’s explanation of the new ‘feature’, as described on its official blog:
“This test is designed to address situations where neither social nor algorithmic signals are sufficient. For example, if you want to send a message to someone you heard speak at an event but are not friends with, or if you want to message someone about a job opportunity, you can use this feature to reach their Inbox. For the receiver, this test allows them to hear from people who have an important message to send them.”
Now I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a little bit of uproar over this latest profiteering move by Facebook, which comes just days after it was forced into a humiliating climb down over its plans to sell users photos on Instagram. Whilst Facebook says that the intention is to make sure that people’s important messages are seen, it does seem to be a rather anti-social measure.
Efforts to reduce the amount of spam sent through Facebook are normally welcome, but doing so in way that penalizes those who have a genuine reason to want to contact someone will only serve to discourage them. Let’s face it, NOBODY likes giving their money to Facebook, a brand that is widely perceived to be utterly ruthless in its quest to profit from its users. By forcing people to pay to ensure their message lands in someone’s inbox, many people will simply say “no”, and either look for an alternative way to contact them, or just not bother at all.
The other issue is that the feature could allow anyone with money to override a user’s personal settings. It’s possible to set your message filter so that you only receive messages from those people you know, but now Facebook seems to be letting people pay to bypass this filter?
No one is denying that keeping scammers and spammers at bay is a huge challenge for social media sites, but measures like this immediately raise suspicions that Facebook is once again disguising its insatiable greed as yet another ‘improvement’ that few people will benefit from.