Fake news on Facebook didn’t start with the 2016 election. Nearly a decade ago, users posted dire warnings that the network was about to start charging users.
It wasn’t true. But would it have been so bad?
Instead of charging users, Facebook made its money by selling ads targeted to them. It enforces the old saying about the web that if you aren’t a customer, then you’re the product.
Now the Cambridge Analytica controversy has revealed just how easily user data can be accessed and misused. It has a lot of people feeling violated, and wondering if they can be paying customers instead.
Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg says total privacy on the network would require users to pay, though they’re not considering offering that option.
Facebook’s business model isn’t unique. Much of the internet runs on ad money. And broadcast television and radio worked this way for years, though without gathering nearly as much data. If there aren’t any better options to keep our personal information out of untrustworthy hands, is privacy something to pay for?
- Kathy Pham Fellow, Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society; former product manager for Google; @kathytpham
- Luke Stark Postdoctoral fellow, Dartmouth College Department of Sociology; @luke_stark
- Geoffrey Fowler Technology columnist, The Washington Post; @geoffreyfowler
Would You Pay For Facebook?
We asked the 1A Text Club whether they would pay to use Facebook. Most people said no. Those who said yes tended to say they would pay between five and ten dollars a month.
Here are the rough, nonscientific results:
To join the 1A Text Club, text “1A” to 63735. You can text “STOP” anytime to leave. Standard message rates may apply.
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