Elon Musk plans to charge all users of X, the former Twitter

Elon Musk, the world’s richest person and the owner of X, the social media platform that was formerly known as Twitter, has announced that he intends to charge all users a small monthly fee for using the service. He said that this was the only way to combat the problem of bots and fake accounts that spread misinformation and hate speech on the platform.

Musk’s conversation with Netanyahu

Musk made this statement during a live streamed conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who invited him to discuss the future of technology and innovation. The two leaders also talked about antisemitism on X, which has been criticized by Jewish groups for not doing enough to stop it.

Elon Musk plans to charge all users of X, the former Twitter
Elon Musk plans to charge all users of X, the former Twitter

Musk said that he was against antisemitism and any form of collective hatred of people, but he also defended his right to free speech and expression. He said that charging users for verification was his solution for getting rid of bots and fake accounts, which he claimed were responsible for most of the harmful content on X.

“We’re moving to having a small monthly payment for use of the system,” Musk said. “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.”

He explained that creating a bot costs “a fraction of a penny”, but if someone had to pay “a few dollars or something, some minor amount”, the effective cost to bots would be very high. He also said that the artificial intelligence that bots use is getting better at passing CAPTCHA tests than humans.

“This is a longer discussion, but in my view, this is actually the only defence against vast armies of bots,” Musk added.

Netanyahu accepted that balancing free speech and content moderation was a challenge, but he urged Musk to get it right. “I hope you find within the confines of the First Amendment, the ability to stop not only antisemitism… but any collective hatred of people that antisemitism represents,” he said.

X’s premium service

Musk’s plan to charge all users of X would be an extension of his existing strategy to monetize the platform, which he acquired in October 2022. Since then, he has renamed it X and introduced a premium service called X Premium, which offers users more features, such as longer posts and increased visibility on the platform.

X Premium currently costs $8 (£6.50) a month in the US, and the price varies depending on the country. Musk said that he was looking at cheaper options for users who could not afford or did not want to pay for the premium service.

However, users can still use X for free at the moment, although they have access to fewer features and may face more restrictions in the future.

X’s revenue and reputation

Musk’s move to charge all users of X may have financial as well as ethical motivations. X, like its predecessor Twitter, relies heavily on advertising revenue, which accounts for most of its income. However, advertising revenue has been declining in recent years due to increased competition from other platforms and changing consumer preferences.

By charging users for access, Musk may hope to generate a more stable and predictable source of income for X, as well as increase its value and attractiveness to potential investors.

However, there is also a risk that by putting X behind a paywall, it may lose a large chunk of its users, especially those who are not willing or able to pay for it. This could reduce its reach and influence, as well as drive down its advertising revenue further.

Moreover, charging users for access may not necessarily solve the problem of bots and fake accounts on X, as some people may still find ways to create them or bypass the payment system. It may also alienate some users who value free speech and expression on the platform, or who see it as a public good rather than a private service.

X’s reputation has also been tarnished by several controversies and scandals since Musk took over. Earlier this month, he said that he would sue the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a Jewish civil rights group, for accusing him of “engaging with and elevating” antisemites on X. He also faced backlash for changing Twitter’s name to X without consulting its users or shareholders.

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