In December, Facebook made headlines when it announced that it was going to start charging for users to contact strangers . Part of the reason for this is rooted in the company's inability to find a functional solution for spam messages, which they had hoped would be solved when they introduced the "Other" folder, a secondary inbox where "less relevant messages" go .
Unfortunately, it seems the network has been unable to properly prioritize incoming mail, condemning legitimate messages into this "Other" box, a folder few people bother to check on a regular basis, and which appears to be completely inaccessible on Facebook's mobile app.
In an awkward move to "help" people ensure their messages are visible to their intended recipients, Facebook announced last month that it would begin using "economic signals to determine relevance"  -- that is, they would start charging people to send messages to strangers. In its post regarding this and other changes, Facebook did not mention a dollar value for their "test," but shortly after, media sources began reporting $1.00 as the set fee.
And then Mashable tried to reach Mark Zuckerberg and discovered that the network is charging users $100.00 to reach out to its founder . CNN later reported that other Facebook executives had a similar access barrier on their inboxes, including COO Sheryl Sandburg and CFO David Ebersman . Looking beyond Facebook, CNN tried Digg founder Kevin Rose and found that he, too, had a hefty price tag on his inbox.
When they contacted Facebook, CNN Money was told: "We are testing some extreme price points to see what works to filter spam." I can see people with high profiles supporting a setup that creates a higher barrier-to-entry on social media. I have my settings on Google+ turned so only people as far out as Extended Circles can contact me, for example. My Google+ profile provides a link to my site's contact form for people who need to reach me, and Gmail's superbly intuitive Priority Inbox takes care of the rest when I start to lose my grip on e-mail traffic.
But this is a set-up I have chosen for myself. So far, it seems that Facebook's so-called spam-reducing "test" isn't opt-in. North Carolina journalist +Michelle Li
recently discovered by chance that Facebook was charging users to pay $100.00 to ensure their messages made it into her inbox.
"Journalists are supposed to give a voice to the voiceless." she writes in a blog post . "I don't see how this helps our cause. How are people who don't know me supposed to send me story ideas? I'm sure viewers will only take this out on me... and I surely am not going to get a cut of this $100. And, even if I could, I wouldn't want it."
Li never opted in to put an economic barrier on her inbox. Venture Beat has suggested that the fee amount may be generated based on recipient's importance . Li has over 9,000 followers, a number that may have triggered the network to charge a fee of that size. The criteria for the implementation of this fee isn't entirely clear.
Facebook has not made any statement suggesting that people who see this fee imposed on their inboxes will receive any money , so Li's integrity isn't at stake. But she's right to feel uncomfortable -- how many users who have attempted to contact her before this know that the $100.00 is going to Facebook and not Li?
Of course, there are users who think it's inappropriate for Facebook to sell others access to them as a means of generating revenue for itself. Facebook hasn't admitted that this "test" is a way to make money, but as we learned with "Promoted Content," the company has become more active in terms of finding ways to monetize its users.
(It's worth noting that users are still able to leave messages in strangers' Facebook inboxes if they follow them first. This is a lot of work, though, and Facebook hasn't been particularly forthcoming with this information. So much for bringing people together?)