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Should You Pay for Instagram Verification and Twitter Blue?

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Should You Pay for Instagram Verification and Twitter Blue?

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Photo: Yui Mok (AP)

Social media services have generally been free of charge for users, but now, with ad revenues slowing down, social media companies are looking for new revenue streams beyond targeted ads. Now, Twitter is charging for its blue check verification, and Meta and Twitter both charge for identity protection.

Users benefit from “free” services such as social media platforms. According to one study, in the U.S., Facebook users say they would have to be paid in the range of $40 to $50 to leave the social networking service for one month. If you value Facebook highly enough that you’d need to get paid to take a break, why not pay for these new services if you can afford them?

Meta plans to offer paid customer support and account monitoring on Facebook and Instagram to guard against impersonators for US$11.99 a month on the web and $14.99 a month on iOS devices. Twitter’s proposed changes make two-factor authentication via text messaging a premium feature for paid users. Twitter Blue costs $8 a month on Android devices and $11 a month on iOS devices.

As a researcher who studies social media and artificial intelligence, I see three problems with the rollout of these features.

The collective action problem of Meta Verified and Twitter Blue

Information goods, such as those provided by social media platforms, are characterized by the problem of collective action, and information security is no exception. Collective action problems, which economists describe as network externalities, result when the actions of one participant in a market affect other participants’ outcomes.

Some people might pay Facebook for improved security, but overall, collective well-being depends on having a very large group of users investing in better security for all. Picture a medieval city under siege from an invader where each family would be responsible for a stretch of the wall. Collectively, the community is only as strong as the weakest link. Will Twitter and Meta still deliver the promised and paid-for results if not enough users sign up for these services?

While large platforms such as Facebook and Twitter could benefit from lock in, meaning having users who are dependent on or at least heavily invested in them, it’s not clear how many users will pay for these features. This is an area where the platforms’ profit motive is in conflict with the overall goal of the platform, which is to have a large enough community that people will continue using the platform because all of their social or business connections are there.

Image for article titled Should You Pay for Meta Verified and Twitter Blue?

Screenshot: Meta/Gizmodo

The economics of information security

Charging for identity protection raises the question of how much each person values privacy or security online. Markets for privacy have posed a similar conundrum. For digital products in particular, consumers are not fully informed about how their data is collected, for what purposes and with what consequences.

Scammers can find many ways to breach security and exploit vulnerabilities in large platforms such as Facebook. But valuing security or privacy is complicated because social media users do not know exactly how much Meta or Twitter invests in keeping everyone safe. When users of digital platforms do not understand how platforms safeguard their information, the resulting lack of trust could limit the number of people willing to pay for features such as security and identity verification.

Social media users in particular face imperfect or asymmetric information about their data, so they do not know how to correctly value features such as security. In the standard economic logic, markets assign prices based on buyers’ willingness to pay and sellers’ lowest acceptable bids, or reservation prices. However, digital platforms such as Meta benefit from individuals’ data by virtue of their size – they have such a large amount of personal data. There is no market for individual data rights, even though there have been a few policy proposals such as California governor Gavin Newsom’s call for a data dividend.

Some cybersecurity experts have already pointed out the downsides to monetizing security features. In particular, in giving a very rushed timeline, one month from announcement to implementation, to pay for a more secure option, there is a real risk that many users will turn off two-factor authentication altogether. Further, security, user authentication and identity verification are issues that concern everyone, not just content creators or those who can afford to pay.

In the first three months of 2022 alone, nearly one-fifth of teens and adults in the U.S. reported their social media accounts getting hacked. The same survey found that 24% of consumers reported being overwhelmed by devices and subscriptions, indicating significant fatigue and cognitive overload in having to manage their virtual experiences.

It is also the case that social media platforms are not really free. The old adage is if you are not paying, then you are the product. Digital platforms such as Meta and Twitter monetize the enormous tracts of data they have about users through a complex online advertising-driven ecosystem. The system makes use of very granular individual user data and predictive analytics to help companies microtarget online ads and track and compare advertising views with outcomes. There are hidden costs associated with people’s loss of privacy and control over their personal information, including loss of trust and vulnerability to identity theft.

Instagram and online harms

The other problem is how these moves to monetize security options increase online harms for vulnerable users without identity protection provisions. Not everyone can afford to pay Meta or Twitter to keep their personal information safe. Social bots have become increasingly more sophisticated. Scams increased by almost 288% from 2021 to 2022, according to one report. Scammers and phishers have found it easy enough to gain access to people’s personal information and impersonate others.

For those who are scammed, the process of account recovery is frustrating and time-consuming. Such moves might hurt the most vulnerable, such as those who need Meta to find access to job information, or the elderly and infirm who use social media to learn about what is happening in their communities. Communities that have invested resources in building a shared online space using platforms such as Twitter and Facebook may be harmed by monetization efforts.

People are tired of having to navigate numerous subscriptions and having security and privacy concerns that persist. At the same time, it’s an open question whether enough users will pay for these services to boost collective security. Ultimately, the service a social media platform offers is the opportunity to connect with others. Will users pay for the ability to maintain social connections the way they pay for content, such as entertainment or news? Social media giants may have a difficult path ahead.


Anjana Susarla, Professor of Information Systems, Michigan State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Individual + Team Stats: Hornets vs. Timberwolves

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CHARLOTTE HORNETS MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES You can follow us for future coverage by liking us on Facebook & following us on X: Facebook – All Hornets X – …

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What went wrong with ‘the Metaverse’? An insider’s postmortem

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What went wrong with 'the Metaverse'? An insider's postmortem


It’s now two years since Facebook changed its name to Meta, ushering in a brief but blazing enthusiasm over “the Metaverse”, a concept from science fiction that suddenly seemed to be the next inevitable leap in technology. For most people in tech, however, the term has since lost its luster, seemingly supplanted by any product with “artificial intelligence” attached to its description. 

But the true story of the Metaverse’s rise and fall in public awareness is much more complicated and interesting than simply being the short life cycle of a buzzword — it also reflects a collective failure of both imagination and understanding.  

Consider:

The forgotten novel

Ironically, many tech reporters discounted or even ignored the profound influence of Snow Crash on actual working technologists. The founders of Roblox and Epic (creator of Fortnite) among many other developers were directly inspired by the novel. Despite that, Neal Stephenson’s classic cyberpunk tale has often been depicted as if it were an obscure dystopian tome which merely coined the term. As opposed to what it actually did: describe the concept with a biblical specificity that thousands of developers have referenced in their virtual world projects — many of which have already become extremely popular.

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Snow Crash.

You can see this lack of clarity in many of the mass tech headlines attempting to describe the Metaverse in the wake of Facebook’s name change: 

In a widely shared “obituary” to the Metaverse, Business Insider’s Ed Zitron even compounded the confusion still further by inexplicably misattributing the concept to TRON, the original Disney movie from the 80s.

Had the media referenced Snow Crash far more accurately when the buzz began, they’d come away with a much better understanding of why so many technologists are excited by the Metaverse concept — and realize its early incarnation is already gaining strong user traction.  

Because in the book, the Metaverse is a vast, immersive virtual world that’s simultaneously accessible by millions of people through highly customizable avatars and powerful experience creation tools that are integrated with the offline world through its virtual economy and external technology. In other words, it’s more or less like Roblox and Fortnite — platforms with many tens of millions of active users. 

But then again, the tech media can’t be fully blamed for following Mark Zuckerberg’s lead.

Rather than create a vision for its Metaverse iterating on already successful platforms — Roblox’s 2020 IPO filing even describes itself as the metaverse — Meta’s executive leadership cobbled together a mishmash of disparate products. Most of which, such as remotely working in VR headsets, remain far from proven. According to an internal Blind survey, a majority of Zuckerberg’s own employees say he has not adequately explained what he means by the Metaverse even to them.

Grievous of all, Zuckerberg and his CTO Andrew Bosworth promoted a conception of the Metaverse in which the Quest headset was central. To do so, they had to overlook compelling evidence — raised by senior Microsoft researcher danah boyd at the time of the company acquiring Oculus in 2014 — that females have a high propensity to get nauseous using VR.

Meta Quest 3 comes out on October 10 for $500.
Meta Quest 3.

Contacted in late 2022 while writing Making a Metaverse That Matters, danah told me no one at Oculus or Meta followed up with her about the research questions she raised. Over the years, I have asked several senior Meta staffers (past and present) about this and have yet to receive an adequate reply. Unsurprisingly, Meta’s Quest 2 VR headset has an estimated install base of only about 20 million units, significantly smaller than the customer count of leading video game consoles. A product that tends to make half the population puke is not exactly destined for the mass market — let alone a reliable base for building the Metaverse. 

Ironically, Neal Stephenson himself has frequently insisted that virtual reality is absolutely not a prerequisite for the Metaverse, since flat screens display immersive virtual worlds just fine. But here again, the tech media instead ratified Meta’s flawed VR-centric vision by constantly illustrating articles about the Metaverse with photos of people happily donning headsets to access it — inadvertently setting up a straw man destined to soon go ablaze.

Duct-taped to yet another buzzword

Further sealing the Metaverse hype wave’s fate, it crested around the same time that Web3 and crypto were still enjoying their own euphoria period. This inevitably spawned the “cryptoverse” with platforms like Decentraland and The Sandbox. When the crypto crash came, it was easy to assume the Metaverse was also part of that fall.

But the cryptoverse platforms failed in the same way that other crypto schemes have gone awry: By offering a virtual world as a speculative opportunity, it primarily attracted crypto speculators, not virtual world enthusiasts. By October of 2022, Decentraland was only tracking 7,000 daily active users, game industry analyst Lars Doucet informed me

“Everybody who is still playing is basically just playing poker,” as Lars put it. “This seems to be a kind of recurring trend in dead-end crypto projects. Kind of an eerie rhyme with left-behind American cities where drugs come in and anyone who is left is strung out at a slot machine parlor or liquor store.”

All this occurred as the rise of generative AI birthed another, shinier buzzword — one that people not well-versed in immersive virtual worlds could better understand.

But as “the Metaverse” receded as a hype totem, a hilarious thing happened: Actual metaverse platforms continued growing. Roblox now counts over 300 million monthly active users, making its population nearly the size of the entire United States; Fortnite had its best usage day in 6 years. Meta continues plodding along but seems to finally be learning from its mistakes — for instance, launching a mobile version of its metaverse platform Horizon Worlds.  

Roblox leads the rise of user-generated content.
Roblox.

Into this mix, a new wave of metaverse platforms is preparing to launch, refreshingly led by seasoned, successful game developers: Raph Koster with Playable Worlds, Jenova Chen with his early, successful forays into metaverse experiences, and Everywhere, a metaverse platform lead developed by a veteran of the Grand Theft Auto franchise.

At some point, everyone in tech who co-signed the “death” of the Metaverse may notice this sustained growth. By then however, the term may no longer require much usage, just as the term “information superhighway” fell away as broadband Internet went mainstream.  

Wagner James Au is author of Making a Metaverse That Matters: From Snow Crash & Second Life to A Virtual World Worth Fighting For 

GamesBeat’s creed when covering the game industry is “where passion meets business.” What does this mean? We want to tell you how the news matters to you — not just as a decision-maker at a game studio, but also as a fan of games. Whether you read our articles, listen to our podcasts, or watch our videos, GamesBeat will help you learn about the industry and enjoy engaging with it. Discover our Briefings.

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Social media blocks are “a suppression of an essential avenue for transparency”

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In this photo illustration the word censored is seen displayed on a smartphone with the logos of social networks Facebook, WhatsApp and YouTube in the background.

Once praised as the defining feature of the internet, the ability to connect with physically distant people is something that governments have recently been seemingly intent on restricting. Authorities have been increasingly pulling the plug, putting over 4 billion people in the shadows in the first half of 2023 alone

Social media platforms are often the first means of communication to be restricted. Surfshark, one of the most popular VPN services, counted at least 50 countries guilty of having curbed these websites and apps during periods of political turmoil such as protests, elections, or military activity.

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