Paid Accounts on Facebook and Instagram Arrive in Australia

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Two weeks ago, Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, announced a new service that would give users exclusive features and a coveted blue verification check mark.

For a monthly subscription fee, users will get access to live customer support, measures of protection from impersonation, increased visibility and reach, and exclusive features to “express yourself in unique ways,” the company said. Users will also be able to use their government ID to authenticate their account and receive a verification check mark as long as the name on their account matches.

Following a similar move by Twitter a few months ago, the announcement has intensified debates about the ethics of asking users to pay for support and security features that many argue should be fundamental to social media platforms. One tech columnist compared the practice to a protection racket. Another labeled Meta’s service a “creator tax” — the cost of trying to grow a brand on Instagram or Facebook. (Mark Zuckerberg, Meta’s chief executive, has said that verifying IDs and providing in-person customer support for all users would cost “a significant amount of money.”)

Ethical questions aside, I was curious about how the service would work. Meta has started offering it Australia and New Zealand users on a test-run basis, before it rolls it out in other countries including the U.S. So I tracked down three of the first users in Australia to ask them why they had signed up, what they thought of the service, and whether it was worth the cost.

The three users I talked to had mixed initial feelings. They had all signed up at least in part to test the service and document their experience, and said they had only been given the option to sign up two or three days ago (despite Facebook saying that it would start rolling out the service last week), meaning they had not had time to put features like additional visibility and protection from impersonation to the test.

Although the service was initially announced as costing $11.99 a month per outlet for desktop users and $14.99 per app for mobile, Australian and New Zealand subscribers need to pay a little more. All three users I talked to were paying 24.99 Australian dollars ($16.88) for a mobile subscription — or twice that if they wanted to be verified on both Instagram and Facebook.

The in-person support feature was not a live chat like some people had imagined, said Jonah Mazano, a musician who was already verified on Facebook but not on Instagram. It was instead a form on the app that you fill out and is then emailed to Meta. A reply within two hours is guaranteed. Mr. Mazano said that when he sent a query about the specifics of getting another account verified, it took about 30 minutes to receive a general response.

“I don’t think they know the process, I think they’re just there to give you links and general support,” he said, adding that he did not talk to one person for the whole conversation, but instead had multiple people replying to his consecutive messages.

Jody Milward, a digital marketing strategist in Queensland, is paying for both an Instagram and a Facebook subscription. Although she found it “disappointing that you have to pay to be able to get extra support,” she said that she would likely keep paying the 49.98 Australian dollars a month in the hopes that the extra reach and services would help her business, which she primarily runs on Facebook.

One of the immediate benefits, the three users said, was that there is nothing that identifies a verification badge as being bought, as opposed to being given because an account belongs to a notable figure — unlike Twitter, where you can see if an account has a blue badge because it’s a “legacy” account or because the user bought a Twitter Blue subscription.

But that would likely be a temporary benefit, said Paul Ramondo, a digital marketer in Western Australia. “You might have two or three weeks of bliss before Meta makes a change or people cotton on.”

Now for this week’s stories:

Australia and New Zealand

Burger King Is Hungry Jack’s in Australia. What Will Wendy’s Be? The American burger chain plans to enter the Australian market. The problem? There’s already a fast food company down under with the same name.

Around the Times

Once the World’s Largest, a Hotel Goes ‘Poof!’ Before Our Eyes. The Hotel Pennsylvania in Manhattan was a virtual city within a city. But in the end, nothing could save it.

Office Mandates. Pickleball. Beer. What Will Make Hybrid Work Stick? Hybrid work has been choose-your-own-adventure, but now C.E.O.s are making their choices more permanent.

‘A Strange Dream’: A Cruise Ship Is a Floating Shelter for Displaced Turks. More than 1,000 Turkish residents displaced by the recent earthquakes are staying on a luxury boat in the Mediterranean

An Unfamiliar Problem for Canada: Mass Illegal Border Crossings. A surge in illegal crossings from the United States has led to calls to shut down a rural road on the Canadian border.

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