Weekly Column: The Cost of Social Media

In his capacity as a Columnist for California Sports Lawyer®, Founder Jeremy Evans has written a column about the potential issues and benefits of Meta-owned Facebook and Instagram following in the footsteps of Twitter by offering a verified blue-check mark for users through an identification process.    

You can read the full column below.


What would happen if people had to pay to use social media? Would people use social media less because there is a cost? Would people rush to purchase verification statuses on Meta-owned Facebook and Instagram, or on Twitter as those platforms offer or will offer soon? Would privacy issues be raised by requiring proof of verification through a government-issued identification process? Would news become more truthful if verification provided more accountability?

The answer to the above, in legal terms is, it depends. With TikTok facing potential heightened scrutiny and regulation in the United States, it might be prime time for competitors Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat to take some market share. In other words, the perfect storm may be brewing for a shake-up of social media. However, before that happens, let us address the above questions.

For one, if people were forced to pay for social media use similar to streaming platform entertainment content, there will likely be a premium to pay for blue check mark/verified and a lesser price for ad-based accounts. There will also remain a free account option. There will be a drop in users because not everyone will want to pay for social media if a free option was not offered. That business model means that the economic projections for platform owners like Meta suggests social media companies will make more money from the new pricing structure even with the users lost.

Second, there will be a host of businesses, celebrities, and semi-public figures who would rush to keep their blue-check marks and verified statuses or seek them permanently. The blue-check mark offers a significant marketing tool that has been hard to obtain for millions of business owners and individuals. The blue-check mark also provides for an air of legitimacy on social media platforms that businesses and individuals will pay a price to obtain.

Third, privacy issues are already a significant concern for social media platforms. Adding verified identification to platforms increases the risk for surveillance of individuals and the release of confidential and private information in a data breach and release. Meanwhile, state legislatures across America continue to follow California’s lead in passing privacy law protections in favor of consumers. Businesses have to keep up by hiring attorneys and executives with knowledge in privacy law for compliance purposes.

Lastly, it is true that by adding verification some people may feel less inclined to post anonymously, however, it is unlikely to make news on social media more truthful. Complaints about fact-checking have been countered by policies on posting, much to the chagrin of users with calls for First Amendment free speech limitations and public forum comparisons. It is also true that fact-checking arguably needs to and does occur as much on news media outlets and from celebrities and public figures as it does for non-famous users. Verification will not increase the truth of news, but it will provide a marketing tool for many. A marketing tool that if left unchecked could lead to misinformation from “verified” profiles. In that light, the market and people would be better to think of social media verification as a marketing tool that helps both users and advertising aspects of the social media platform business.

Unfortunately, social media is likely to cost more money to use. Fortunately, people may spend less time on their phones using social media and more quality time with family and friends, reading a book, or writing, etc. Less social media use may also decrease the time people spend comparing one another to their own detriment. Indeed, the cost of social media is rising—all the while providing possibly the greatest distribution of information since the invention of the internet, the printing press, and the Pony Express.


About Jeremy M. Evans:

Jeremy M. Evans is the Chief Entrepreneur Officer, Founder & Managing Attorney at California Sports Lawyer®, representing entertainment, media, and sports clients in contractual, intellectual property, and dealmaking matters. Evans is an award-winning attorney and industry leader based in Los Angeles and Newport Beach, California. He can be reached at Jeremy@CSLlegal.com. www.CSLlegal.com.   

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Jeremy M. Evans is the CEO, Founder & Managing Attorney of California Sports Lawyer® representing entertainment, media, and sports clients and is licensed to practice law in California.