Elon Musk suggested that everyone may soon have to pay a “small monthly” fee to use X, the social media platform previously known as Twitter. The controversial move is necessary to tackle the problem caused by bots on the site, said the billionaire.
In a livestream with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu on Sept. 18, Musk said: “The single most important reason that we are moving to having a small monthly payment for the use of the X system, is it is the only way I could think of to combat vast armies of bots.”
— Benjamin Netanyahu – בנימין נתניהו (@netanyahu) September 18, 2023
However, the Tesla and SpaceX CEO did not say how much the plan would cost. It is also not clear whether the proposal was an off-the-cuff comment. Verified X Premium users in the U.S. already pay $8 every month to get access to more features, like longer posts.
Lower tier-pricing for Twitter users
X has undergone several changes since Musk bought the platform for $44 billion in October last year. He sacked thousands of employees, restored banned accounts like that of Donald Trump, and pushed to grow ad revenue. Charging every X user would be the latest of those changes.
“We’re actually going to come up with a lower tier pricing. So we just want it to be just a small amount of money,” Musk said during his conversation with Netanyahu.
“This is a longer discussion, but in my view, this is actually the only defence against vast armies of bots,” he added.
Twitter remains a free-to-use platform for all people, for now. Musk averred that the goal was not to profit from the subscriptions (even though that would certainly be the case), but to rid X of a long-standing bot problem.
“A bot costs a fraction of a penny, call it a tenth of a penny” to make, said the world’s richest person. “But if somebody even has to pay a few dollars or something, some minor amount, the effective cost to bots is very high.”
Twitter has struggled to keep bots at bay in the past. In 2022, former X security chief Peiter Zatko told the U.S. Congress that the company did not even know the number of automated accounts on the site. Musk claimed he had backed out from buying X due to the bots issue.
Musk risks alienating users
In his conversation with Netanyahu, Musk revealed that X currently has 550 million “monthly users” who generate 100-200 million posts everyday. These are the people he wants to force to pay a monthly fee in order to use the popular social media network.
However, the plan risks alienating some of X’s most committed users who have enjoyed the site’s free services. Advertisers might also not be happy about a Twitter with less users than before. X is already facing increasing competition from the likes of Meta’s Threads and BlueSky, both free to use platforms.
Musk and the Israeli prime minister also spoke about AI regulation as well as hate speech and antisemitism on Twitter.