Would you pay a buck to Tweet?
X, formerly known as Twitter, is testing a new subscription plan called “Not A Bot.” Under this new plan, any new user must verify their phone number and pay $1 per year to access key features, such as Tweeting, retweeting, liking, bookmarking, and creating lists. If you elect not to pay, all you’ll be able to do is read posts, watch videos, and follow accounts.
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X started testing the “Not A Bot” subscription on October 17, 2023, in two countries: the Philippines and New Zealand. Prices vary by country and currency, but in this pilot program, the subscription fee is one US dollar per year.
Elon Musk’s social network claims that the subscription is part of X’s efforts to combat spam and bot activity. New users who opt out of the subscription will only be able to use “read-only” functions.
Will charging a fee help stop fake accounts, or could it make the problem worse? Kolina Koltai, a researcher at the investigative collective Bellingcat who previously worked at Twitter, told ABC News, “There is nothing to stop a scammer from spending $100 to buy a hundred new bot accounts.”
Many Twitter users agree. Some of the most popular comments in responses to the “Not a Bot” Twitter announcement included:
In addition, Koltai added, “New users to the platform may not be inclined to pay $1 and give their credit card information to X.” This is an excellent point amd numerous X users agreed. David Moscrop, a Canadian journalist and political scientist, tweeted, “I’ll definitely quit before I give this hell site my banking or credit card or any financial info. This isn’t an anti-bots play. It’s a play to lure people into making Twitter a payment/all-in-one app. Not a chance.”
He’s not alone. Others note that the subscription plan is an attempt to get your credit card data. By turning X into a “Pay for Play” service,” Slate’s Scott Nover noted, X is aiming to “Get people used to paying X,” not eliminating spam.
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In the meantime, Twitter continues to offer X Premium, its paid subscription that adds a blue checkmark to your account and offers early access to such features as the ability to edit posts, create posts longer than 280 characters, and prioritize your posts for a broader audience reach. Premium subscription rates start at $8/month or $84/year.
The company formerly known as Twitter also offers X Premium to “Verified Organizations.” This is a service for businesses, governments, and non-profits and comes with a gold checkmark, affiliation badges, premium support, impersonation defense, and additional features. The Verified Organization service costs $1,000 a month.
None of this appears to have helped Twitter’s bottom line. X CEO Linda Yaccarino recently admitted X has lost 11.6 percent of its daily active users since Elon Musk’s takeover, dropping from 254.5 million to 225 million users. This summer, Musk claimed that X had over 550 million monthly users. In its last public financial report in July, the company reported it had lost 59% of its revenue.
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During the same period, X’s reputation has taken a hit. The European Union claimed that X has the highest ratio of disinformation posts on all large social media platforms.
Most recently, NewsGuard, a site that provides tools to counter misinformation, found that X verified accounts are superspreaders of misinformation about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Of the 250 most-engaged posts (likes, reposts, replies, and bookmarks) boosting falsehoods, 74 percent came from blue-check-marked accounts.
In short, X is losing users, has more propaganda and ad spam than ever, and is in financial hot water. X needs more users and revenue, and “Not a Bot” is an effort to raise money, not eliminate spam. Musk has long considered putting all of Twitter behind a paywall. This plan may be the first step in that direction.