Social networking giant Facebook has quietly started charging UK users as much as £10 to send a message to celebrities and other people outside their circle of friends.
The company has said the move was to stop users being bombarded by messages from strangers. However, Facebook users with mutual friends can still communicate for free.
According to The Sunday Times (£), the company is testing a sliding scale of fees for celebrities based on how popular it perceives the individual to be.
Users can pay the fee online instantly via a credit or debit card, but under-18s are barred from doing so. hey are also blocked from receiving unsolicited messages.
On Friday, users attempting to contact celebrities from the highest tier including Olympic gold medallist diver Tom Daley, will have to pay as much as £10.68 to contact him.
Booker prize-winning author Salman Rushdie and American rapper Snoop Dogg have been featured one rung down. A user trying to send a message to either of them would have to pay £10.08.
Those who want to contact a non-friend can now either pay a fee of around 71p to send the message directly to a person's inbox along with an automatic alert, or send the message for free to a less visible folder, in which many Facebook users are unaware of.
Comedian Miranda Hart and broadcaster Louis Theroux are among those in the receiving end of the 71p standard fee.
Facebook said in a statement:
The system of paying to message non-friends in their inbox is to prevent spam while acknowledging that sometimes you want to hear from people outside you immediate social circle.
We are testing a number of price points in the UK and other countries to establish the optimal fee that signals importance.
The move has received criticism, especially because it has boasted that "the site is free and always will be".
Peter Wood, social media director at Steak tweeted:
Facebook charging users in the UK to contact celebs online. 1-0 Twitter. Seems a bit mean to charge someone to send fan mail.
The pricing structure in the UK is based on an algorithm that often takes into account the number of followers a user has on Facebook.
In America, users are charged $1, $5 or $15 to send priority message. A $100 fee to contact the most prominent celebrities was abandoned when it emerged that this included Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
Here is a list of what users may have to pay to message these celebrities:
- Tom Daley, Olympic diver - £10.68
- Ed Sheeran, singer-songwriter - £10.68 (fake account)
- Michael Rosen, former children's laureate - £10.68
- Salman Rushdie, Booker prize-winning author - £10.08
- Snoop Dogg, US rapper - £10.08
- Laura Trott, double Olympic cycling champion - 71p
- Louis Theroux, broadcaster - 71p
- Miranda Hart, comedian - 71p
- Jeremy Hunt, health secretary - 71p