RSF calls for ban on paid identity verification, privileges on social media
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) deplores Meta’s decision to follow Twitter’s lead by launching a paid identity verification service for Facebook and Instagram. This is a dangerous tool that introduces two-tier access to information on social media and should be withdrawn, RSF says.
The parent company of Facebook and Instagram, Meta announced on 19 February that it is testing a paid verification service called Meta Verified in Australia and New Zealand. For 12 US dollars a month, “content creators” – as the Californian tech giant calls them – will get the blue badge certifying their identity, plus increased visibility in comments, account recommendations and the search bar
“Meta wants its users to be able to trust the accounts they interact with, but how can they trust a platform that is based on a payment system and grants the privilege of greater visibility in exchange for a handful of dollars? The new service provides no guarantee of information reliability and subverts the very principle of certification. Presenting this new feature as a guarantee of reliability, when it is just disguised advertising, is misleading and dangerous.”
Head of RSF’s Tech Desk
This new feature is driven above all by the profit-motive, as Meta struggles to revive a business model that has been undermined by its colossal investment in the metaverse. But the innovations on which Meta and Twitter have embarked are not mere subscription model tweaks with no other effect. They imply an overhaul of the methods of access to information on these platforms.
For this reason, RSF recommends quickly imposing the following rules on such practices:
- The deceptive use of terms such as “verification” – suggesting that content authenticity or reliability is guaranteed – should be banned. Identity verification does not in any way guarantee the reliability of content.
- When any payment is made to promote content, the content must be clearly identified by such labels as “advertising” or “paid promotion.” Therefore, all content from individuals benefiting from this new feature should be clearly identified as having been paid for.
- Social media algorithms should include the promotion of reliable information in their functions, and should reject any market approach. Access to information is a right – it should not be market-based.
The credibility of the companies that manage social media depends on their ability to ensure that their services do not help to enrich the arsenal of those trying to spread disinformation. Their search for new sources of income should not obscure the fact that they have contributed to the current information chaos. It is completely unacceptable that their business interests should yet again come before the interests of the public