£10 to message Tom Daley? Facebook trials new payment system

Facebook is looking to charge users as much as £10 to send messages to public figures and others outside their usual network, with a new payment scheme designed to reduce the amount of spam on the site.

The charges would apply to private messages sent to other members’ inboxes, something that is currently free for all users regardless of whether they are ‘friends’ with the receiver. But the world’s largest social network believes implementing a payment system with a sliding scale of fees depending on the popularity of the recipient will help to kill off much of the spam in circulation.

As such, the Sunday Times reports that fans wishing to send messages to Olympic diver Tom Daley could be charged £10.68 for the privilege, while contacting writer Salman Rushdie would cost £10.08.

Facebook has confirmed the proposal in a statement but said, "This is still a test and these prices are not set in stone."

"The system of paying to message non-friends in their inbox is to prevent spam while acknowledging that sometimes you might want to hear from people outside your 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. Part of that test involves charging higher amounts for public figures, based on the number of followers they have,” the company added.

The new system would see messages to non-friends automatically sent to an alternative inbox marked as spam, unless the user decides to accept the fee and pay immediately by debit or credit card.

The site has been testing similar schemes in the US recently, with a December trial charging $1 for users over 18 to contact strangers, in the hope that the receiver would be less likely to ignore the message.

Facebook was in the tech headlines last week as it unveiled its new mobile UI Facebook Home, which embeds the social network into the menu screens of Android devices. Though some see the Facebook Home strategy as a shrewd move for mobile ubiquity, rival firms have sought to play down the system, with Microsoft dismissing it as a Windows Phone copycat.

To help make up your mind on the mobile platform, check out how it works in our Facebook Home hands-on.