Oct. 8, 2012 at 11:23 AM ET
Despite what your friends are claiming now — and despite what they were claiming a year ago — Facebook is still free. The social network hasn't released a membership "price grid" or announced that it will start charging its users.
A hoax which has been floating around since Facebook launched the Timeline design is driving folks into a frenzy once again, most likely due to the "promoted posts" the social network is testing right now. (Some users are able to promote personal posts for a fee, to make sure that more of their friends see them. This is completely optional and not part of some sort of monthly membership fee.)
According to Graham Cluley of Sophos' Naked Security blog, there's not much to the hoax beyond a bunch of annoying messages, along these lines, which are being reposted at an increasing rate:
FACEBOOK JUST RELEASED THEIR PRICE GRID FOR MEMBERSHIP. $9.99 PER MONTH FOR GOLD MEMBER SERVICES, $6.99 PER MONTH FOR SILVER MEMBER SERVICES, $3.99 PER MONTH FOR BRONZE MEMBER SERVICES, FREE IF YOU COPY AND PASTE THIS MESSAGE BEFORE MIDNIGHT TONIGHT. WHEN YOU SIGN ON TOMORROW MORNING YOU WILL BE PROMPTED FOR PAYMENT. IT IS OFFICIAL IT WAS EVEN ON THE NEWS. FACEBOOK WILL START CHARGING DUE TO THE NEW PROFILE CHANGES. IF YOU COPY THIS ON YOUR WALL YOUR ICON WILL TURN BLUE AND FACEBOOK WILL BE FREE FOR YOU. PLEASE PASS THIS MESSAGE ON...
It's not particularly surprising that some folks are falling for this. After all, Facebook's been in the news a lot recently and it's easy for someone to overhear a little detail — such as something about promoted posts — out of context and panic. But think about it for a second: Does it really make sense at all that pasting a message, especially one written in ALL CAPS, would get you out of a $10-per-month fee? Correct answer: No, it doesn't.
So don't copy and paste this message. Be part of the solution not the problem. Rather than respond thoughtlessly to a prankster's fear tactic, politely share a link to this blog post with your friends — just to reassure them that while Facebook may be trying to make money off of you in lots of different ways, a monthly subscription isn't one of them.
Update: A Facebook spokesperson has reached out to NBC News with a simple statement, to emphasize the message of this story:
We have no plans to charge for Facebook. It's free and always will be.
Want more tech news or interesting links? You'll get plenty of both if you keep up with Rosa Golijan, the writer of this post, by following her on Twitter, subscribing to her Facebook posts, or circling her on Google+.