Does Meta Verified pave the way for two-speed content on social media platforms?
This week Meta announced it’s launching a paid subscription service on Facebook and Instagram. “This new feature is about increasing authenticity and security across our services,” wrote Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, in a Facebook blog post.
Meta’s official blog post went for a different tack completely. In an article headed ‘Testing Meta Verified to Help Creators Establish Their Presence,’ the company said the new feature was designed “to help up-and-coming creators grow their presence and build community faster”.
So, which is it? And should we care?
Authentication and security should be the minimum requirements for any social network. But Zuckerberg explained in a comment thread to his announcement that this costs money: “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.”
"Increased visibility and reach for some equates to suppressed visibility and reach for others".
Sure, enterprise users are used to paying a premium for faster support, but an advertising-funded network needs to demonstrate that its users are who they say they are.
Offering enhanced support is about getting creators ready for when platforms are required to take down more content under new regulations like the UK’s Online Safety Bill. When these rules kick in, there'll be a huge backlash from creators querying why their content was taken down, asking what the appeal process is, how long it'll take, who ultimately adjudicates, etc.
Meta’s official announcement says that paid-up subscribers will benefit from “Increased visibility and reach with prominence in some areas of the platform – like search, comments and recommendations.”
Increased visibility and reach for some equates to suppressed visibility and reach for others. Of course, Meta as a company can set its own rules on how it prioritises content. But if the company was an internet service provider rather than an owner of social media networks, we’d be talking about its attack on net neutrality - the principle that, on an open Internet, all traffic has to be treated equally without favour or delay.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning that whilst both Instagram and Facebook are haemorrhaging young users and content creators, Meta Verified is only available to those aged 18 and above.
Meta Verified is being tested at the price of $11.99 a month (or $14.99 if purchased on Apple’s operating system, iOS) - but if you want verified profiles for both Instagram and Facebook you’ll have to pay twice.
A version of this article first appeared on 22nd February as a column for the Influencer Marketing Digest - the weekly newsletter I am commissioned to write for Fourth Floor.