How famous does Facebook think you are?

Facebook starts charging users to contact celebrities like Tom Daley.

Facebook has just launched a trial scheme to charge UK users between 71p and £11 to send messages to people they don't know, including celebrities. The prices vary depending on who you're trying to contact. According to the Guardian:

Facebook said the charging fee structure varied according to a number of factors including the number of followers and a secret "fame" algorithm.

But just what is the algorithm? Tom Daley is at £10.68, but Robert Peston only fetches 71p. Salman Rushdie's at 10.08, but then so is Snoop Lion. Here's my best shot at cracking it with the information so far available:

1. £10.68: Tom Daley, Olympic diver; Ed Sheeran, singer-songwriter; Michael Rosen, former children's laureate.

Secret algorithm: Producer of or target demographic for children's poetry

2. £10.08: Salman Rushdie, Booker prize-winning author; Snoop Lion, US rapper.

Secret algorithm: Name sounds like or is a type of animal

3. 71p: Jeremy Hunt, health secretary, Robert Peston, journalist; Cressida Bonas, Prince Harry's girlfriend; Louis Theroux, broadcaster; Miranda Hart, comedian; anyone you don't know already.

Secret algorithm: Dances the zouk-lambada/might have danced the zouk-lambada/might have watched someone dance the zouk-lambada/you can't rule it out completely

4. £61: Mark Zuckerberg (in January, idea now abandoned)

Secret algorithm: In charge of secret algorithm

The scheme is, of course, a form of spam-control - but it's also a strange sort of return to Facebook's roots. Starting as a network only available to Harvard students, the site originally marked itself out from the crowd because it was elitist - and therefore worth trying to be a part of, at least according to Marx (Groucho, not the other one). As it expanded via the Ivy League, Oxbridge, other universities, the world and from thence their parents, it lost a certain amount of status. It's interesting that it has found a money-making scheme that tallies with these early principles.


Tom Daley can be messaged on Facebook for £10.68. Photograph: Getty Images

Martha Gill writes the weekly Irrational Animals column. You can follow her on Twitter here: @Martha_Gill.

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Is anyone prepared to solve the NHS funding crisis?

As long as the political taboo on raising taxes endures, the service will be in financial peril. 

It has long been clear that the NHS is in financial ill-health. But today's figures, conveniently delayed until after the Conservative conference, are still stunningly bad. The service ran a deficit of £930m between April and June (greater than the £820m recorded for the whole of the 2014/15 financial year) and is on course for a shortfall of at least £2bn this year - its worst position for a generation. 

Though often described as having been shielded from austerity, owing to its ring-fenced budget, the NHS is enduring the toughest spending settlement in its history. Since 1950, health spending has grown at an average annual rate of 4 per cent, but over the last parliament it rose by just 0.5 per cent. An ageing population, rising treatment costs and the social care crisis all mean that the NHS has to run merely to stand still. The Tories have pledged to provide £10bn more for the service but this still leaves £20bn of efficiency savings required. 

Speculation is now turning to whether George Osborne will provide an emergency injection of funds in the Autumn Statement on 25 November. But the long-term question is whether anyone is prepared to offer a sustainable solution to the crisis. Health experts argue that only a rise in general taxation (income tax, VAT, national insurance), patient charges or a hypothecated "health tax" will secure the future of a universal, high-quality service. But the political taboo against increasing taxes on all but the richest means no politician has ventured into this territory. Shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander has today called for the government to "find money urgently to get through the coming winter months". But the bigger question is whether, under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour is prepared to go beyond sticking-plaster solutions. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.