Dubai: Non-government organisations (NGOs) and social workers in the UAE have lambasted Facebook for demanding money to highlight their posts and reach out to more friends on the social network.
The ‘pay-to-promote’ system is a new feature being tested by Facebook and invites users to pay anything from $2 (Dh7.35) to $50 or above so they can “highlight an important post” and “make sure your friends see this”. A range of charges could be levied to make posts more visible. The more one pays, the more people one can reach.
“This is ridiculous. It’s like holding people to ransom,” said Leslie Cully of Buckle Up in the Back Dubai, a campaign which raises awareness on the dire need for passengers to fasten their seat belts in the back seats of vehicles.
“It’s about saving lives, not making money — so how am I expected to pay for the posts? I rely on people seeing my page and spreading awareness. I started off as a Facebook campaign which has led me to visit over 20,000 school kids and parents. I couldn’t have done it without Facebook,” she said.
Lola Lopez, Founder of Volunteer in the UAE, has also hit out against the move. “As if it isn’t hard enough already, Facebook’s new charges for status updates puts an enormous strain on us financially and more frustratingly on our ability to reach the good-willed community when a good cause needs urgent help.”
Giving an example, she said, “Two weeks ago, we were asked to help find O-negative blood for a baby born prematurely who was fighting for her life in a hospital. Out of our 12,000-plus members the message reached only 1,000 or so, but I was prompted to pay $40 to ensure it would reach them all.”
Similarly, Linda Forster of Gluton Free UAE, said, “There is no way I can get funds to pay for my Facebook posts. I set up a Facebook page to get a support group going for those suffering from Celiac disease, a hugely underdiagnosed problem in the UAE. The page now has around 2,000 followers.”
She said, “Small pages will not be affected. It’s those with a large following that will suffer.” Lopez said, “Whilst I see some sense behind a charge to private sector companies using this platform as a form of free mass media to advertise new products, Facebook must give us struggling non-profits a break and let us help our community without extra charges.”
Cully said, “The fact that I have chosen the NGO option when I set up the page should make me exempt from any charges.”
Meanwhile, a Facebook spokesperson told XPRESS: “At Facebook, we’re constantly testing and introducing new features. This particular tool does not reduce the current social distribution of free posts. The paid option is intended to increase the visibility of group pages that wish to boost their profile.”