Facebook has started charging users up to £10 to message celebrities and others outside their circle of friends.
Under the trial scheme, it costs 71p to send a standard message on the social networking site.
But the fees vary depending on the popularity of the recipient, with a current maximum charge of £10.68 to contact celebrities such as Olympic diver Tom Daley.
It puts him a tier above U.S. gangster rapper Snoop Dogg and Booker prize-winning author Salman Rushdie, both of whom cost £10.08 to message.
And in what may cause some embarrassment, many well-known figures such as broadcaster Louis Theroux and comedian Miranda Hart can currently be contacted for the standard charge of 71p.
The fee structure is decided by a mathematical formula that takes into account a number of factors, including the number of followers a user has on Facebook and how many messages they receive.
Charges to contact somebody using the system can rise and fall under the system.
The fees were introduced for 10 per cent of British users as a trial at the end of last month with the plan to introduce it to all members of Facebook in the country.
The company said that the paid for ‘priority messages’ were intended to stop users from being bombarded with unwanted contact from strangers
But Facebook faced criticism yesterday after details of the costs became known, especially because it has boasted that ‘the site is ‘free and always will be’.
Peter Wood, social media director at digital marketing agency Steak, tweeted: ‘Facebook charging users in the UK to contact celebs online. 1-0 Twitter. Seems a bit mean to charge someone to send fan mail.’
Users who are Facebook friends or who share mutual friends are still able to keep in contact with no charge.
There is also a cap on the number of paid messages any user can receive.
Messages are sent directly to a recipient’s inbox on their profile page.
Those who don’t want to pay are still able to send a message, but these are not put into the recipients inbox but another box called in the “other folder” that most people rarely check and many don’t even know about.
The charge can be paid online instantly with a credit or debit.
Under-18s are barred from making such payments and are also blocked from receiving unsolicited messages.
Users in the US are charged $1, $5 or $15 to send a priority message.
Facebook scrapped a $100 fee to contact the most prominent celebrities after it was mocked for applying the charge to contact the company’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg.
In Britain questions were also raised over the charging formulae after it emerged that one of those who it is most expensive to contact is Michael Rosen, the former children’s laureate.
Users are also being charged the maximum £10.68 to contact a fake Facebook account set up in the name of singer Ed Sheeran.
Facebook said: ‘The system of paying to message non-friends in their Facebook inbox is designed 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.
‘This is still a test and these prices are not set in stone.’
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