Elon Musk hints X may charge all users

Musk, the owner of X, formerly known as Twitter, said that the platform is moving towards a payment model where all users would be charged a “small amount.”

X’s chief shared the idea in a conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after Netanyahu confronted Musk about the need to combat legions of bots posting antisemitic content, a measurable problem on former Twitter lately.

“This is a super tough problem. It is the single most important reason we’re moving to having a small monthly payment for the use of the X system. It’s the only way I can think of combating vast armies of bots,” Musk said during a live event.

Musk, one of the wealthiest people on the planet, explained the logic by adding that a bot costs a fraction of a penny, meaning that even a minor payment would not be cost-effective for individuals who control the bot armies.

Musk’s social media platform currently offers users an “X Premium” option for a $8 monthly fee for US users. The universal payment would make up only a “minor amount,” X’s head said, hinting at a “few dollars or other small amount.”

“We will actually come with lower tier pricing. We want this to be just a small amount of money. This is a longer discussion, but in my view, this is only defense against armies of bots,” Musk said.

While the move could theoretically work, forcing all users to pay for their accounts would likely cause a sharp drop in the user base, at least in the short term. Other major social media platforms such as Meta, TikTok, Telegram or others don’t charge their users.

There‘s also no guarantee that Musk‘s logic of outpricing bot armies would work. State-sponsored attackers are often not constrained by monetary issues, as opposed to purely financially motivated attackers.

A recent report by the European Commission found that X has allowed Russian propaganda to reach more users since Musk relaxed the platform’s safety standards.

“Preliminary analysis suggests that the reach and influence of Kremlin-backed accounts has grown further in the first half of 2023, driven in particular by the dismantling of Twitter’s safety standards,” the report said.

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