Perhaps one of the most popular rumours on Facebook that never seems to go away is that claim that the social networking site is about to introduce a charge to its users.
Numerous variants of this rumour have spread across a number of years, and all claim that the social networking giant is about to introduce an imminent charge, with most variants making an additional claim that passing on a message to a number of your contacts provides a way of bypassing that charge and thus keeping your account free to use.
The evolution of this rumour actually predates Facebook itself, since variants of the “soon to be charging” hoax has previously targeted older services. For example, in the 1990s, emails would fly from inbox to inbox falsely claiming that AOL were planning on charging for “Instant Messages” and by forwarding an email to your friends you would be in effect somehow signing a petition against the charge.
That wasn’t true and neither were the messages that spread between users of Yahoo Messenger that stated you needed to send a specific message to all your contacts to keep your version of Messenger free. A similarly worded message also spread through the old MSN Messenger that also claimed your messenger icon would “turn blue” once you sent the message (a part of the rumour that many Facebook versions would later incorporate into their hoaxes.)
As for the Facebook specific rumours, these started soon after Zuckerberg’s creation spread across US borders, when messages urging users to join a Facebook group called “WE ARE NOT PAYING FOR FACEBOOK” began spreading virally –
We are leaving Facebook if they try to charge us. Invite all your friends and together we can make a stand. All the details can be found at this site –
Business – Public Relations
WE ARE NOT PAYING FOR FACEBOOK
Open: All content is public.
WE ARE AGAINST THE 4.99 A MONTH CHARGE FOR FACEBOOK FROM JUNE 30TH 2010
These groups accumulated thousands of members, all united by a vehement disgust to an imminent mandatory charge that didn’t exist. The lack of any charge didn’t stop countless other variants appearing online, including this 2011 version that added the caveat of being able to wriggle out of the charge by passing the message on to others –
FACEBOOK JUST RELEASED THEIR PRICE GRID FOR MEMBERSHIP. $9.99 PER MONTH FOR GOLD MEMBER SERVICES, $6.99 PER MONTH FOR SILVER MEMBERSHIP SERVICE, $3.99 PER MONTH FOR BRONZE MEMBERSHIP SERVICES, FREE IF YOU COPY AND PASTE THIS MESSAGE BEFORE MIDNIGHT TONIGHT. WHEN YOU SIGN ON TOMORROW MORNING YOU WILL BE PROMPTED FOR PAYMENT INFO IT IS OFFICIAL. IT WAS EVEN ON THE NEWS. FACEBOOK WILL START CHARGING DUE TO THE NEW PROFILE CHANGES. IF YOU COPY THIS ON YOUR WALLYOUR ICON WILL TURN BLUE AND FACEBOOK WILL BE FREE FOR YOU. PLEASE PASS THIS MESSAGE ON, IF NOT YOUR ACCOUNT WILL BE DELETED IF YOU DO NOT PAY. ?
This version – also from 2011 – also claimed that your icon would turn blue (just like the older variants that targeted users of MSN Messenger before Facebook even existed.)
Its official. signal at 12:20 it even passed on tv. Facebook will start charging this summer.If you copy this on your wall your icon will turn blue and facebook will be free for you. Please pass this message if not your count will be deleted. p.s, this is serious the icon turns blue, So please put this as your status!
(Another popular version of this hoax replaced 12:20 with 10:33)
The year after, in 2012, the “you’ll be invited to payment” variant (that also claimed your icon would turn blue) began to spread virally (this variant would make a dramatic and viral return in 2016.) –
Attention! Tomorrow morning, when you connect to facebook, youll be invited to payment info… its official, it was even on the news. Facebook will begin a charge because of the change of profile. If you copy this on your wall your icon will be blue, and facebook will be free for you. Thank you
More contemporary versions of this hoax are merely a mish-mash of older versions, like this 2016/2017 version that claimed Facebook would become chargeable “on Saturday morning”…
From Saturday morning facebook will become chargeable. If you have at least 10 contacts send them this message. In this way we will see that you are an avid user and your logo will become blue( ) and will remain free. (As discussed in the paper today. Facebook will cost 0.01ps per message. Send this message to 10 people. When you do the light will turn blueotherwise facebook will activate billing.
Also in 2016 a long-winded, grammatical nightmare of a hoax also claimed that Facebook would charge and purported the message came from “Carlos, the Director of Facebook” (??) and managed to contradict itself several times (yet still managed to spread virally)
Hi I’m Carlos The Director of facebook THURSDAY WE ARE NOTIFIED BY HOTMAIL, HAPPENED ON THE TELE BY THE DOUBTS !!
Hello everyone, it seems that all the warnings were real, facebook use will cost money
If you send this string to 18 different from your list, your icon will be blue and it will be free for you.
If you do not believe me tomorrow at 6 pm that facebook will be closed and to open it you will have to pay, this is all by law.
This message is to inform all our users, that our servers have recently been very congested, so we are asking for your help to solve this problem. We require that our active users forward this message to each of the people in your contact list in order to confirm our active facebook users if you do not send this message to all your facebook contacts then your account will remain inactive with the consequence of Lose all your cont the transmission of this message. Your SmartPhone will be updated within the next 24 hours, will have a new design and a new color for the chat. Dear Facebook users, we are going to do an update for facebook from 23:00 p.m. until 05:00 a.m. on this day. If you do not send this to all your contacts the update will be canceled and you will not have the possibility to chat with your facebook messages
Will go to pay rate unless you are a frequent user. If you have at least 10 contacts
Send this sms and the logo will turn red to indicate that you are a user
Confirmed … We finish it for free Tomorrow they start to collect the messages for facebook at 0.37 cents Forward this message to more than 9 people of your contacts and it will be free of life for you to watch and it will turn green the ball of above do it and you will see
Facebok is now free, send 10 people to reactivate your service again without cost
I already updated
Facebook and have new stickers forward it to 15 666355466
An updated version of this rumour soon also spread, correctly replacing Carlos with Mark, yet all the other ridiculous claims, grammar errors and contradictions remained.
If you’re after an official denial from Facebook, you need only to look at their login page that has been adorned with the “it’s free and always will be” disclaimer for years. Or read their 2015 denial of the message posted from their own official Facebook page.
All of the above demonstrates that nothing compels users into hasty action than the threat that their beloved services may be taken away. Such a charge simply would not work on a site like Facebook since it goes against their popular business model, and we discuss this in more detail here.
Not only has thing long running hoax predated Facebook targeting older services, it has also spread to services that have become popular since Facebook. Versions targeting WhatsApp, SnapChat and Instagram users have also become popular.
There are also a series of similar rumours we haven’t mentioned here that claim Facebook has become overpopulated and is removing accounts as a consequence. Predictably so, these rumours claim that users can shirk the impending account removal by … you guessed it… passing on the same message to their contacts.