Thanks to the explosion of mass media and social networking, privacy seems to be little understood in the modern age.

London - Facebook has started charging users up to £11 (about R150) to get in touch with celebrities and others outside their circle of friends.

The fee will vary, ranging from 71p for a standard message to £10.68 if you want to contact someone such as Olympic diver Tom Daley.

This puts Daley a tier above US rapper Snoop Dogg and Booker prize-winning author Salman Rushdie – who would both cost £10.08 to contact. Prices will be decided by a mathematical formula that is designed to measure users’ popularity.

The “priority message” scheme was introduced to 10 percent of British users at the end of last month. Now Facebook plans to extend it to all the website’s UK members.

They said the system was meant to stop people from being bombarded with unwanted contact from strangers. But Facebook faced criticism on Sunday, as it has previously claimed that “the site is free and always will be”.

Peter Wood, from digital marketing agency Steak, tweeted: “Facebook charging users in the UK to contact celebs online. 1-0 Twitter. Seems a bit mean to charge someone to send fan mail.”

Users who are already Facebook friends or who share mutual friends will be able to send each other messages without being charged.

And it will still be possible to message celebrities for free. But such fan mail will be redirected into a section known as the “other folder”, that most people don’t know exists.

Questions have been raised over the website’s charging formula after it emerged that one of the most expensive people to contact is Michael Rosen, the former children’s laureate.

Users are also being charged £10.68 to contact a fake Facebook account set up in the name of singer Ed Sheeran.

And intriguingly, very well-known figures such as broadcaster Louis Theroux and comedian Miranda Hart can still be contacted at the standard 71p rate.

Facebook said: “The system of paying to message non-friends in their Facebook inbox is designed to prevent spam, while acknowledging that sometimes you might want to hear from people outside your immediate social circle.

“We are testing a number of price points in the UK and other countries to establish the optimal fee that signals importance.

“Part of that test involves charging higher amounts for public figures, based on the number of followers they have. This is still a test and prices are not set in stone.”

Facebook’s previous attempt to set up a celebrity messaging fee in the US was scrapped after the company was ridiculed for charging $100 to contact founder Mark Zuckerberg. - Daily Mail