How Facebook’s Pay to Highlight Feature Can Lead to Scams

Facebook Pay to Highlight FeatureAccording to TechCrunch, Facebook is testing a new feature. One which I believe will only increase the already huge number of scams and malware present on the social networking site.

The new feature would allow users to pay to “highlight” their status updates in their friends’ news feeds.

Facebook spokeswoman Mia Garlick said, “We’re constantly testing new features across the site. This particular test is simply to gauge people’s interest in this method of sharing with their friends.”

Facebook is getting desperate. Their revenue is declining as a result of more users accessing it via their mobile devices, which do not display ads. Their IPO was a complete failure, and will lead to several lawsuits. I don’t blame them for looking at new ways to monetize their platform. However, what they are doing with these “highlighted” status updates is dangerous.

How Does Facebook’s Highlight Feature Work?

Currently the Highlight option is only being tested with a small sample group of users. And, it is only available for personal accounts, not brand pages. If you are part of the test sample group, when you post an update on Facebook you’ll see the Highlight option next to the Like and comment buttons. Clicking on Highlight will display the message below – giving you the option to highlight (spam?) your update in your friends’ news feeds.

Facebook Pay to Highlight Status Feature

“Highlight an Important Post. Make sure friends see this.”

Highlighted posts may appear higher in the news feed, stay visible for longer, and appear to more friends and subscribers. However, they won’t have any visual indicators that will make them standout (i.e. you won’t know which posts have been paid for, and which haven’t).

Facebook is testing various price points for Highlight, ranging from free to $1 to $2.

How Can Facebook Highlight Lead to Scams?

The Highlight option is a bad idea. It will only lead to more spam, scams and malware on Facebook, and trust me, there is already plenty of it on the social networking site.

Highlighted Posts Are Not Highlighted!

Really? Facebook wants to introduce advertisements into users’ news feeds without identifying them as such? Nothing good can come of this.

Right now Facebook’s algorithm displays your average status update to only 12% of your FB friends. But, by paying a couple of dollars you can ensure that more of your friends see your posts. This seems harmless until you think about the kind of posts people would pay to expose to more users.

People aren’t going to pay to tell their old high school classmates they’re watching the Kardashians, or cleaning dog puke off the carpet. They will, however, pay a nominal fee to advertise their blog or share their affiliate links. Anything were they think they can make their $1 or $2 investment back is fair game.

Now that we have an idea of the kind of posts that will likely be highlighted, let’s consider the fact that these highlighted posts won’t standout, but instead will blend in with the rest of the posts. Not only is this a shady business practice, but even worse, it will lead to an increase in spam as spammers learn to abuse it – not exactly great user experience.

The idea that the Highlight feature will only be available to personal accounts, not business pages, doesn’t make the spam argument any less real. The fact is, scammers are already creating fake Facebook profiles to get away with a host of malicious activities on Facebook; ranging from survey scams to more dangerous deeds like spreading malware.

Facebook Charging Scams Galore

There was a well-known Facebook scam going around tricking users into believing that Facebook would start charging. Those that were tricked into “liking” these scammy Facebook pages became targets of spam and other scams by these perpetrators.

Even after Facebook publicly announced they would not charge users to use their service, many still fell victim to the scam. Imagine how much easier it would be to con users if Facebook did start charging to highlight status updates. If implemented, the Highlight feature would open the door for scammers to explore new twists on the old favorite, Facebook Will Start Charging Scam, and also increase their success rate by creating confusion around a known Facebook feature.

What’s Next for Facebook Highlight?

Facebook hasn’t released many details about the Highlight feature. It’s still too early to tell whether it will ever come to fruition, or how it will evolve. However, based on the information we have so far, implementing it will only serve to degrade the user experience on Facebook. Let’s hope this one goes the way of the dodo.

It’s worth noting that Facebook recently implemented a similar feature, which they are calling Promoted posts, for brand pages. However, Facebook has yet to implement the Highlight feature for personal accounts.

What do you think of the Highlight feature? Would you pay to highlight your posts?

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