In many overseas countries like Pakistan and the Philippines, Meta has brokered deals with cell phone carriers so that low-income people can use a free version of Facebook without paying for data. But a software glitch the company has known about for months has made it so that many of these users unwittingly exceeded their prepaid plans on Facebook, according to a Wall Street Journal investigation.
According to internal documents, Facebook knew about and did not fix the software problem, leading to an estimated total of $7.8 million that had been charged to Facebook’s free-data product users by July 2021. Many of these users do not know they were being charged until they ran out of data on their prepaid plans.
Facebook’s free data plans are part of its strategy to acquire more users internationally. According to the documents, the free-data plan was set to bring another 10.6 million monthly users to the platform from July through December 2021.
A company representative told the Journal that it is aware of the problem and has been investigating it for some time. The problem has been solved in most cases, he said, but the work is ongoing. He also said that without purchasing-power adjustments, the charges are closer to $3 million.