Apparently you can’t keep a good hoax down. Once again, spammers and well-meaning users are spreading the falsehood that Facebook intends to start charging. This time the claim is that the social networking giant is going to start selling three different levels of paid service.
These rumors circulate every time Facebook makes a significant change. A version of this rumor was a huge source of digital clutter in Jan. 2010, and has bubbled up other times as well. Consumers in those cases were urged to join a specific Facebook group to register protest. This time they’re being told to post a message on their Facebook wall that the platform will recognize and therefore bypass that account when the bills start going out.
Sophisticated users will recognize some giveaway clues in the most popular version of the hoax message: an unsourced claim that it’s been reported in the mainstream media, an awkwardness about the wording, and instructions to take an unlikely course of action. Here’s the text of one particularly widespread posting: “It is official. It was even on the news. Facebook will start charging due to the new profile changes. If you copy this on your wall your icon will turn blue and Facebook will be free for you. Please pass this message on, if not your account will be deleted if you do not pay.”
But as everyone knows who does tech support for their extended family, many Facebook users aren’t wise in the ways of the Internet.
“It’s amazing what people will believe when they are sent a message from a trusted friend – but let me assure you, Facebook is *not* going to ask you for your payment when you sign onto the site tomorrow morning. And no, the announcement of Facebook beginning to charge its users has *not* been on the news,” Sophos senior technology consultant Graham Cluley said on a blog post.
The fictional pricing tiers are said to be $9.99 a month for Gold Member services, $6.99 for Silver Member services, and $3.99 for Bronze Member services. Some say there will be a free version, others don’t, and none of them say what the different levels’ benefits are.
Facebook has no need to charge. It expects to generate $4.27 billion in revenue this year, 89 percent of which will come from advertising, from companies wanting to reach its roughly 800 million registered users. Following the changes announced last week, that advertising is made even more valuable given the amount of user information and usage patterns it can track and aggregate.
AllFacebook – http://tinyurl.com/3c3gojq
Sophos’ Naked Security blog – http://tinyurl.com/6b6htxc
Photo of Edwin E. Aldrin Jr. on the surface of the moon, courtesy of NASA