Elon Musk Contemplates a Paid Model for X: Battling Bots and Boosting Quality

In a recent live-streamed conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Elon Musk, the owner of X, formerly known as Twitter, dropped a bombshell: the platform might no longer remain free. Musk hinted at a shift towards a subscription-based model, proposing a “small monthly payment” for users to access the X system. This unexpected revelation stirred curiosity and raised questions about the future of social media.

Musk’s rationale for considering a subscription fee was quite intriguing. He cited the pervasive issue of bots plaguing the platform as the driving force behind this proposed change. “It’s the only way I can think of to combat vast armies of bots,” explained Musk. The core of his argument was that bots are remarkably cost-effective, often costing a fraction of a penny to operate. By imposing a nominal subscription fee, even a few dollars, the financial barrier would deter bot creators, substantially raising the effective cost of employing bots.

While Musk refrained from specifying the exact cost of this proposed subscription, he emphasized that it would be a “small amount of money.” The intention seems to be to strike a balance between generating revenue for the platform and ensuring accessibility for the average user.

During the conversation, Musk also shared some impressive statistics about X’s user base. He claimed that X now boasts a staggering 550 million monthly users who generate between 100 to 200 million posts daily. However, one critical detail remained unclear: whether these figures included automated accounts, both legitimate ones like news feeds and undesirable ones such as spammers. This distinction is essential in evaluating the platform’s real human engagement.

Musk’s proposal to introduce a subscription fee for X is not entirely out of the blue. In the past, there were reports of Musk contemplating the idea of placing Twitter, and now X, behind a paywall. Additionally, since taking the reins of X last year, the platform has actively promoted its paid subscription service, X Premium (formerly known as Twitter Blue). For a monthly fee of $8 or an annual fee of $84, subscribers gain access to various features, including post editing, reduced ad exposure, improved search rankings, longer posts, and more.

Despite these efforts, it remains uncertain how successful X Premium has been in attracting subscribers, as the platform has not publicly disclosed subscription numbers. Independent research has suggested that a relatively small fraction of X users, around 827,615, currently subscribe to X Premium.

Beyond the potential shift to a subscription-based model, the conversation between Musk and Netanyahu also delved into the regulation of AI technology and the issue of hate speech on the platform. Musk expressed his strong stance against antisemitism and anything promoting hate and conflict, even as he has faced criticism and accusations of antisemitism himself.

In conclusion, the possibility of X adopting a subscription model represents a significant shift in the landscape of social media platforms. While this proposed change aims to tackle the persistent bot problem and enhance the quality of discourse on the platform, it also raises questions about accessibility and user engagement. The evolution of X under Elon Musk’s leadership continues to be a fascinating journey with potential implications for the broader social media industry.

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