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‘Only way to fight bots’

Elon Musk pushed through a $1 annual fee for new users of his social media site X to unlock basic features such as posting or sharing content – a move the billionaire claims is the “only way” to defeat automated spam bot accounts.

The company formerly known as Twitter rolled out the test, dubbed “Not a Bot,” in New Zealand and the Philippines last Tuesday.

New users in those countries are required to verify their phone numbers and pay for the ability to post, interact with other users, or bookmark posts on the struggling social media site.

“It’s the only way to fight bots without blocking real users,” Musk said. “This won’t stop bots completely, but it will be 1000X harder to manipulate the platform.”

Existing X users “are not affected” by the test, according to Musk. New accounts who decide not to pay the $1-per-year fee will only be able to read posts, watch videos, and follow other accounts.

In a separate post, the social media site’s account said the new fee is “not a profit driver” for the company.

“This new test was developed to bolster our already successful efforts to reduce spam, manipulation of our platform, and bot activity while balancing platform accessibility with a small fee amount,” the company said.

The fee test is the latest in a series of controversial moves by Musk since he bought the company for a whopping $44 billion last fall – including ditching the Twitter brand entirely in favor of a black-and-white “X” logo and loosened content moderation practices.

In the last several weeks alone, Musk has rankled users by hiding headlines and text from news articles and endorsing accounts known for being “antisemitic” and “biased” in the midst of Israel’s war with Hamas.

Despite Musk’s explanation for the test, the plan drew immediate skepticism from some X users.

Elon Musk said the charge is the “only way” to defeat bots.
AFP via Getty Images

“Hi. Just $1 to use Twitter. Go ahead and trust me with your financial information,” Georgetown University professor Donald Moynihan quipped alongside a photo of Musk.

Cryptocurrency researcher and critic Molly White asserted that X was going from “free speech” to “$1 speech” for users.

“Lol bots are already paying $8/month or sometimes even $1000/month for verified or corporate accounts. They sure as f–k won’t care about $1/year,” said Adam Cochran, a partner at Cinneamhain Ventures.

Elon Musk bought Twitter for $44 billion.
X said the test would take place in the Philippines and New Zealand.
AFP via Getty Images

Musk, whose business interests also include Tesla and SpaceX, has sought to revamp X as a subscription-focused platform after spooked advertisers fled the site in response to his overhaul.

In a meeting earlier this month, X CEO Linda Yaccarino told the company’s bank lenders about plans to test a three-tiered subscription service plan for users, Reuters reported. Despite X’s struggles, both Musk and Yaccarino have claimed in recent months that the company is close to breaking even.

At present, X charges its premium subscribers $8 per month in exchange for features such as “blue checkmark” account verification and the ability to post longer tweets and videos.

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