Details have been leaked regarding Facebook’s plans to launch its own subscription service, á la Patreon – and the numbers involved should terrify creators.
While Patreon takes a 5% cut from content creators who use its service, Facebook apparently has plans to charge as much as 30%. Meanwhile, the accompanying terms and conditions reveal the kind of draconian practices that Bitcoin and cryptocurrency were set up to circumvent.
As revealed in this Twitter thread by Matt Saincome, founder of Hard Times, Facebook reached out to him to offer early access to a new ‘fan subscription’ product. Straight away, Matt and his editors noticed this little snippet among the terms and conditions:
“Facebook may in the future change these Terms such that Facebook keeps a revenue share of up to 30%. We will give 30 days’ notice of any such change.”
If you think that’s bad, then wait – it gets better. Facebook also has the right to introduce new users to your account at their discretion – sometimes at discounted rates for the customer, and sometimes for free. In these cases, the content creator eats the cost. More from the thread:
“Facebook reserves the right to offer discounted and free trials for fans from time to time in our discretion, whether to incentivize Subscription sign-ups or otherwise. Where we do so in relation to your Fan Subscriptions, your revenue share will be reduced accordingly.”
For anyone who has spent the last few years digging through cryptocurrency and blockchain whitepapers, reading about this kind of blasé exertion of centralized authority should be quite disconcerting.
And, of course, as with all centralized internet services, big data has a role to play in Facebook’s proposed competitor to Patreon. The following excerpt as relayed by Saincome reveals that your private data will be licensed to Facebook, to be used even when you leave the service:
“If you are allowing us to access any data, content, or other information in connection with your use of Fan Subscriptions (collectively, “Supplemental Data”), then you grant us (and our affiliates) a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use such Supplemental Data. This license survives even if you stop using Fan Subscriptions.”
This is hardly a surprise given Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg’s long history of controversies regarding the willy-nilly use of users’ private data.
In December of 2018, Patreon grabbed headlines for all the wrong reasons when it started banning popular political commentators and internet personalities – usually those to the right of the political spectrum.
At the turn of the year, prominent Canadian intellectual Jordan Peterson publicly abandoned Patreon and set up a Bitcoin address in its place. At the time, I suggested the Patreon debacle represented a prime case for decentralization and hailed Bitcoin as the final nail in the coffin of the subscription service.
Patreon’s 5% fee looks positively charitable in light of Facebook’s proposed 30%; however, both platforms have a long history of censorship, and this excerpt from Patreon’s terms of service shows that Patreon has always held ultimate veto power:
“We can terminate or suspend your account at any time at our discretion. We can also cancel any pledges and remove any content or rewards at our discretion. These terms remain in effect after your account is disabled.”
The only reason Patreon is still operating is that cryptocurrency hasn’t hit the mainstream. Anyone can set up a donation service just by posting their public keys in the relevant place; at the end of blog posts, under YouTube videos, in e-books, on LinkedIn, or on Twitter. The possibilities for independent monetization are endless. Even smart contracts can be used to trigger automated events such as patron rewards.
From this vantage point over here in the crypto space, Facebook’s plans seem laughable. Copying Patreon at this point would be like Netflix copying Blockbuster back in the late 2000’s – and adding a 30% premium onto DVD rentals just for the hell of it.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not represent those of, nor should they be attributed to, CCN.