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The latest business strategy for social networks is charging for security

Social media platforms have long battled spam, fraud, impersonation, and account theft. And two of the leading social media platform introduced a new strategy for handling it during the past week; the strategy involves charging users instead to provide extra security to their profiles.

Twitter made SMS-based two-factor authentication (2FA) a premium feature late last week, which was the first action. Users will have until March 20 to turn off the fundamental security feature or switch to an app-based authentication system, paying $8 to $11 monthly. The decision is part of a more extensive campaign to get users onto the paid version of Twitter, and Musk agreed in a tweet that it’s also a move to stop carriers from billing Twitter for spam SMS messages.

Shortly later, Meta unveiled a security subscription service of its own. To assist “up-and-coming producers” in expanding their audiences, Meta unveiled plans for a paid verification service akin to Twitter Blue. It also comes with “access to a real person” for account support and “proactive account monitoring for impersonators who might target those with developing online audiences.” in addition to a blue check and improved visibility.

Both of these actions are reasonable from one angle. Twitter continues to offer free app-based two-factor authentication, which is usually a more secure alternative, and encouraging more users to use it is a good idea. The new package from Meta adopts a typical practice for enterprise users: charging companies more money for speedier, feature-rich assistance. The business is attempting to address an actual issue with customer service. In general, using money as a lever to put pressure on bad actors online is widely recognised. Providing free non-automated customer assistance to nearly 2 billion consumers is incredibly challenging due to the web’s seamlessness and size, making creating massive accounts for sinister intentions simple. For years, subscriptions or one-time fees have been used as a quality filter by specific smaller online social networks, including Metafilter and WELL.

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However, There Is a Significant Drawback To This Situation

About 75% of Twitter users who used two-factor authentication used SMS services as in the previous year. (Just 2.6% of accounts used it in any capacity).

Twitter is attempting to migrate users to a more secure alternative and make money from it, which is unusual when businesses like Google have gradually phased out text message-based 2FA. The current transition is taking place in a hurried one-month timeframe, almost intentionally designed to scare people into paying for a less secure option, which Twitter advertises as a luxury service rather than the outdated system it is. When the warning message is written to remind people that SMS authentication will be removed until they pay up rather than onboarding them to another method, the outcome could be a lot of individuals who turn off 2FA ultimately.

While this happens, Meta’s plan blends sensible features to add as premium upgrades with those that a good social network should include by default. By letting the typical user know they can trust they’re following the individuals, they think they are, flagging accounts particularly vulnerable to impersonation—a list that includes activists and public officials wanting to be commercial influencers—improves the service for everyone. Even while it would be impossible to give billions of users that kind of care, huge and quickly expanding accounts represent a much smaller segment of the user base that the Facebook experience benefits from supporting without charging. 

In addition, the proposal needs to improve the motivation to improve the poor customer support experience for non-paying users locked out of their accounts.