Social Media and The New Price of Privacy?

Recently, users have noticed popular social media platforms introducing costs and subscriptions. Many users and content creators seem to scoff at the notion of paying to verify their accounts, access certain content, or utilize certain features that were previously at seemingly no cost. It turns out, users may have already been “paying” for these features and services with their personal data.

Platforms such as Twitter and Meta, parent company of Facebook and Instagram, cite recent changes to laws and regulations concerning user privacy as a reason for the new charges. Advertising revenue on these platforms is on the decline, and social media companies are losing money. Lawmakers and even some corporations, like Apple, have cracked down on the collection of users’ personal data, preventing the platforms from tracking users’ and activity or selling users’ personal data to third-party advertisers, a major revenue stream in the past. Additionally, in some cases, when a user posts something on social media, the content can be used by the platform or a third-party entity elsewhere. Many users have grown savvy, adding a watermark or other identifier to make the content undesirable for these purposes.

To sum it up, increased privacy measures for users have come at a cost, and platforms are asking users to make up for the lost revenue by paying for features that have historically come at no cost. While some users may feel it is worth a monthly subscription fee to verify an account, assuring followers or customers that they’re interacting with an authentic account. Casual users, on the other hand, may see no need. Small businesses will also have to grapple with the decision to pay for premium features, as many are already spending about the same amount to advertise or boost posts on the platforms.

These features were never truly free, users are just being asked to pay with money instead of their personal information. Platforms must now be more transparent with what user data is collected, and what the data is used for is more clearly disclosed. With users paying directly, platforms may be more inclined to consider consumer feedback and address common complaints like overzealous fact-check bots and algorithms that fill a user’s feed with a limited variety of content based on their recent interactions. One of the biggest complaints among Facebook users is that when a post or comment is removed for violating the terms of service, a user has the ability to open a dispute for further review. Even if the review finds in favor of the user and returns the content to Facebook, a user must still serve the original suspension or restrictions for the now disproven offense. Commonly known as “Facebook Jail”, a suspension despite platform confirmation that no violation occurred can be frustrating.

How the new paid options shape the new face of social media is yet to be seen, but one thing is certain: users will need to think carefully about what they’re willing to pay for and what they’re willing to let their data be used for in the future.

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