Meta is testing a new subscription service – Meta Verified – that would let Facebook and Instagram users pay to have a verified account.
Testing will begin in New Zealand and Australia this week and will roll out to other countries soon, according to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
For $11.99 per month on the web or $14.99 per month on Apple and Android operating systems, Meta will use a government identification to verify a user’s account and give it a blue badge.
Previously, Meta’s blue badges were free and reserved for notable public figures or businesses.
“This new feature is about increasing authenticity and security across our services,” Zuckerberg wrote in a statement posted to Facebook and Instagram on Sunday.
After Australia and New Zealand, Meta Verified will be rolled out in the United States and other countries.
Subscribers will get a badge indicating their account has been verified with a government ID, extra protection against impersonation, direct access to customer support and more visibility, the company said.
It added that the service would be primarily aimed at content creators looking to expand their presence on the platforms and could see adjustments after a test phase.
There would be no changes to accounts on Facebook and Instagram that are already verified, the company said, adding that only users who are above 18 years of age will be allowed to subscribe. The service is not yet available to businesses.
It was not immediately clear how Zuckerberg planned to price Meta Verified in countries where users cannot afford to pay $12 a month, or in cash-based economies where they may have fewer ways to get the money to Meta.
Last year, Elon Musk’s initial attempts to launch a similar service at Twitter backfired, with an embarrassing spate of fake accounts that scared advertisers and cast doubt on the site’s future. He was forced to briefly suspend the effort before relaunching it to muted reception in December.
For years, the Facebook homepage has proudly declared that the site was “free and always will be”.
But in 2019, the company quietly ditched the slogan. At the time, experts suggested it was because the value of users’ personal data meant the site was never truly free.
In 2022, Meta saw its advertisement revenue decline for the first time since the California-based group went public in 2012.
The company recently announced that the number of Facebook’s daily users hit two billion – but between inflation eating into advertisers’ budgets and fierce competition from apps such as TikTok, those users are not bringing in as much revenue as they used to.
The company has also suffered from regulatory changes introduced by iPhone maker Apple, which restrict the ability of social networks to collect data and sell advertising.
Similar factors have already pushed other networks, from Reddit to Snapchat as well as Twitter, to launch paid plans.
Meta is also under pressure for making a huge gamble on the metaverse, the world of virtual reality that Zuckerberg believes will be the next frontier online.