Will Elon Musk really put X behind a paywall?


Sunnyvale, California, US – Elon Musk, the owner of X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, has said that the company will start charging people “a small monthly payment” to use the service.

“It’s the only way I can think of to combat vast armies of bots,” Musk told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a live conversation that was streamed on the platform on Monday.

Musk did not specify details such as how much X plans to charge or when the plan would go into effect. The social media company did not respond to a request for comment from Al Jazeera.

Since he bought the platform for $44bn last year, Musk, who is the world’s richest man, has made a lot of changes to the platform including letting anyone pay to buy verified check marks, and reversing the ban on former US President Donald Trump. Bots can be automated accounts used to broadcast weather or earthquake alerts. But bad actors can also use them for malicious purposes, such as unleashing hate speech, and targeting adversaries with trolls and spam.

In theory, requiring payment to use X would make running bot armies financially unfeasible.

“The logic and the principle of the idea is not a bad one,” said social media consultant and analyst Matt Navarra. The logic and principle of the idea is not bad,” said social media consultant and analyst Matt Navarra. I am not convinced that enough people will do so and I highly doubt that he can entice enough people to part with their money.” Musk claims that the platform is used by more than 550,000,000 people each month. Mashable reported last month that only a small fraction — 94,000 — of these users signed up for X Premium from July 1 to August 10. But most companies, including Meta’s Facebook and Google’s YouTube, have chosen technical solutions like machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI), and content moderation systems to pinpoint them rather than charging people – as did X under its previous management.

In 2021, Twitter’s site integrity team

that it flagged between five and 10 million malicious bots a week using machine learning and training algorithms to recognise activity patterns. Musk fired the team as part of mass-scale company-wide layoffs last year after buying Twitter.

‘Defeat the spam bots’

Musk’s war on X’s bots is long-standing. Musk

that the deal was “temporarily on hold” and demanded independent analysis to prove this number. Shortly afterwards, Musk said that the deal was “temporarily on hold” and demanded independent analysis to prove that number.

Earlier this year, X killed off a bunch of useful bots on the service by requiring them to pay for access to data that these bots required to tweet automatically.

“He has clearly wedded himself to the problem from the very beginning,” Navarra said. “He must now stick to his line and find a solution for something that he highlighted on a platform he now owns.” Musk and X executives reportedly discussed the idea at the end of last season. One of the plans Musk discussed at the time was limiting the amount of time people could use the service for free before requiring a subscription.declaredIt’s unclear whether Musk expects any potential revenue generated from putting X behind a paywall entirely to make up for what he said was a 60 percent drop in ad sales this year.

‘Devastating for brands’tweetedOther experts question what creating a paywall for X, a platform that was almost entirely supported by advertisers so far, would mean for its future.

“If X went behind a paywall, there would likely be a huge shift in the demographic that makes up the platform,” said social media consultant Rachel Karten. “It would be potentially devastating for brands, because brands go where people — specifically, where their current and future customers — are.”

Requiring people to pay for the privilege of simply using the service to get rid of bots would risk causing many to stop using X altogether. Such a move would give pause to advertisers, who are Twitter’s main customers, thinks Karten.

“Would there be enough current and potential customers for it to make sense for brands to put significant resources into being active on the platform?” she asked. Would brands be comfortable with paying to appear on the platform?” It’s unclear!”

Putting X behind a paywall, said Karten, would force a decision: “You’re either on it or not.”