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Verification on Facebook and Instagram will now cost around $12 per month

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Getting verified on Facebook and Instagram used to be free. Now it's going to cost around $12 a month. CEO Mark Zuckerberg said over the weekend that he's launching a paid subscription service called Meta Verified. It looks a lot like the one Elon Musk just introduced at Twitter. NPR tech correspondent Dara Kerr is here to talk about it.

Hey, Dara.

DARA KERR, BYLINE: Hello.

SHAPIRO: So why is Facebook going to start charging people to have verified accounts after 20 years?

KERR: So Facebook has been having a hard few months. It's seen plummeting stock prices, and so Zuckerberg might be wanting to make more money. He also says verifying accounts costs a lot, and so he's looking to cover some of those costs. He also may be taking cue from Elon Musk. When he bought Twitter last fall, he had an edict that anyone who wanted a verified account had to pay. So now Zuckerberg seems to be following that playbook.

SHAPIRO: And is this going to be available to anyone?

KERR: Yeah. Anyone can join on. They have to pay. And in the past, verified accounts used to just be for public figures, like the president, Cardi B, journalists. And now if you pay, you can also be one of those verified people. It's $12 a month if you're on the web version, and it'll be $15 a month if you want it for your iPhone.

SHAPIRO: OK. So annually, it's more than $140 a year. What do people get for that?

KERR: Yes, $140 a year. That's more than an account at Netflix or HBO. The verification, which looks like a little blue badge, which - similar to Twitter - is for both Facebook and Instagram. And what Zuckerberg is saying people get is added security and direct access to customer support. So for a while now, a lot of people have complained about not being able to get help when they go to Facebook's homepage and also not being able to find a person to talk to. Zuckerberg didn't give any details about what this added customer support is. He just said that you'll be able to get quote-unquote, "direct access to customer support."

SHAPIRO: And also added account security - what does that mean for people who are using Facebook and Instagram?

KERR: So we should look at first at what happened at Twitter. When Twitter opened up its verified accounts to all users, we saw a huge tidal wave of spam and impersonation, and that caused all sorts of problems. But with Facebook, it's a little bit different. Zuckerberg said that they are going to use actual government IDs to verify people, but that doesn't mean that some spam accounts won't be able to get through.

SHAPIRO: Do you think this pay-for-verification model is here to stay?

KERR: It's hard to say. A lot of tech companies have been having financial troubles over the past few months, and it seems they're trying out different ways to boost their bottom line. What we do know is that for Twitter, it hasn't gone so well. As of January - that's just two months into its service - less than 300,000 people have signed up for that blue check mark. That's less than 0.1% of all of its users.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR tech correspondent Dara Kerr. Thanks a lot.

KERR: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Dara Kerr
Dara Kerr is a tech reporter for NPR. She examines the choices tech companies make and the influence they wield over our lives and society.