Facebook: When Free Speech Costs Money

Very quietly, so quietly that it has almost gone without notice, Facebook has begun to charge its users to have their posts shown to more than a small percentage of their friends, fans, and subscribers. New posts on Facebook now come with a “promote” option, where you have the opportunity to pay Facebook money to ensure that your posts actually reach the people who have signed up to receive them. Facebook, famous for its promise that “it’s free, and always will be”, seems to have skirted this issue by charging not to be a user of Facebook, but to actually have your material seen by more than a tiny number of people. Do not mistake this post for a rant about Facebook however–though I myself am impacted (even as this blog has grown more popular over the last several months, the number of referrals from Facebook I receive has indeed dropped since I got the “promote” option), I am not here to trash Facebook but to point out what this move by Facebook more broadly represents–a move toward a fusion of free speech with income, and the debilitating effects this has on democracy.

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