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Meta will launch a paid subscription service that allows Facebook and Instagram users to verify their accounts for up to $14.99 a month, chief executive Mark Zuckerberg announced on Sunday.

The new feature, called Meta Verified, lets users “get a blue badge, get extra impersonation protection against accounts claiming to be you, and get direct access to customer support,” according to a Facebook post by Zuckerberg.

It will cost $11.99 for web access or $14.99 a month on Apple’s iOS operating system and on Android. Meta Verified will be rolled out first in Australia and New Zealand this week, the post said.

Meta revenues have been hammered by privacy changes made by Apple in 2021 that restricted its ability to track users’ internet activity, a key source of data for targeted ads. Meta said last February that the Apple change would cost it more than $10bn in lost advertising income for 2022, around 8 per cent of its total revenue in 2021.

Anshu Sharma, founder of data privacy company Skyflow, said the subscription model was the latest signal that social media users’ “devil’s bargain of exchanging our data privacy for free apps” was coming to an end.

Meta has been forced into major cost-cutting, including announcing its biggest headcount reductions — around 11,000 people, or 13 per cent of employees.

Meta’s new subscription service is similar to a plan by Elon Musk to launch Twitter Blue, which would allow users to verify their Twitter profiles for around $8 a month, since he bought the platform for $44bn last year. The full rollout of Twitter Blue, which first launched in November, was postponed after it was abused by accounts that impersonated companies and celebrities.

Zuckerberg said Meta Verified would allow users to verify their accounts with a government ID. A person close to the company clarified that a government ID would be required to authenticate an account and that subscriptions would include monitoring for account impersonation.

They added that Meta Verified users would also get access to more features “to increase visibility and reach”, such as prominence in search and recommendations.

Messaging group Snap launched its own subscription model called Snapchat Plus late last year, which costs $3.99 a month and gives users exclusive access to new features like longer story expiration and custom notification sounds.

During Meta’s annual earnings announcement this month, Zuckerberg laid out plans to further wrestle Meta’s costs under control in what he said would be a “year of efficiency” for the social media group, which owns Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp.

Its share price has been hammered over the past year by the economic slowdown that prompted marketers to cut their spending on its apps, along with heightened challenges from TikTok and the impact of the Apple privacy changes on ad revenue.

However, its share price has surged more than a quarter this month since it revealed better-than-expected sales and a new $40bn share buyback.

Additional reporting by Patrick McGee

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