The True Pricing movement aims to set a price on products that includes not only the production cost but also all “externalities” such as social and environmental cost. I applaud this aim. Let’s see what it means for the contested decision of Meta, the provider of Facebook, to build a hyperscale datacenter in Zeewolde (pop. 23 000) in a Dutch polder.
The data center will use about as much electricity as the city of Amsterdam. Meta’s goal is to use only green energy, and this will put additional strain on the goal of the Dutch government to reduce CO2 emission with 40% by 2030. The center will also produce heated wastewater. Meta promised to use this for heating buildings in the neighborhood but no concrete plans to do so exist.
The decision of the local council of Zeewolde to permit Meta to build the data center generated outrage on the national level. The feeling is that meta is acquiring resources for which the Dutch public is paying the price.
How can we include the true price in the usage of Facebook? The True Pricing Foundation provides measurement units and monetization factors to set a true price on the use of Facebook. This must then be partitioned over all the posts stored and forwarded in the data center. Let’s assume that this computation can be done.
Next, we need to decide who pays this price. In Meta’s current business model, advertisers pay a price for views, clicks and conversions generated by their advertisements. It is reasonable to ask them to pay for the CO2 emissions and waste heat generated by their advertisements. But I see no reason to charge them for the posts against which they show advertisements.
Asking a true price for Facebook usage therefore implies asking a fee of users for everything they post or read on Facebook. This is a major change in Facebook’s revenue model. Users could pay by subscription, consisting of a base fee for the pollution and emissions caused by Meta’s infrastructure, paid monthly, plus a small fee per post, which could be paid monthly too or in micropayments per post.
The number of users would probably decrease in the new revenue model. Its annual revenue would probably cease to grow exponentially (US$ 86B in 2020). It may even decrease, as there would be less users and less posts, and Meta would have to use the additional income to remediate the pollution is has caused.
This change will not happen overnight, to put it mildly. Until this change has occurred, all of us protesting against the establishment of Meta’s hyperscale in Zeewolde have only one consistent course of action: Stop using Facebook. Stop protesting on Facebook against the hyperscale. Don’t send or read any posts in the vague expectation that this does not generate CO2 or heated wastewater. And after you all left Facebook, I will leave LinkedIn.