Elon Musk’s plan to make X a subscription-based platform is well underway. The social media platform formerly known as Twitter announced yesterday (Oct. 17) it’s testing a “Not A Bot” subscription in New Zealand and the Philippines in a new bid to reduce bots on X. The program will charge a $1 annual fee for new users to access some of the platform’s most basic functions, such as posting and reposting content, liking other users’ posts and replying. Those who don’t pay the subscription fee can view posts, watch videos and follow accounts.
Musk first introduced his plans to charge for basic use of X during a live event with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in September, where he said making users pay a small monthly fee was “the only way” he could think of to combat X’s bot problem. Taking on the bots was his plan before he officially took over the platform almost a year ago. In April 2022, after offering to acquire Twitter, he tweeted he would “defeat the spam bots or die trying!” if the bid succeeded.
X’s bot issue was a point of contention in Musk’s acquisition of the platform last year. At one point, he wanted to terminate the deal, claiming that Twitter had grossly understated the number of bots on the platform. Musk estimated up to 20 percent of accounts on Twitter were inauthentic, while Twitter said the number was less than 5 percent. Independent studies estimated bots made up roughly 10 percent of Twitter’s accounts.
Twitter’s many changes since Musk’s takeover
Under Musk’s ownership, X also reintroduced its monthly Twitter Blue subscription, renamed to X Premium. The monthly subscription ($8 for web or $11 for iOS ) gives users a blue check mark—not to be confused with the gold verified organizations check mark for businesses, governments and nonprofits—and access to features like creating long posts with over 280 characters, the ability to edit posts, and prioritized rankings on timeline and search.
X has changed rapidly since Musk’s takeover; the new name and logo are only about three months old. Users often ponder whether the next alteration to the 17-year-old company will be their last straw. NPR notably left X six months ago after the new verification system labeled the broadcaster as “U.S. state-affiliated media”—a designation that could lead users to believe the U.S. government had editorial control over its content. Some celebrities and other notable figures have also announced they were leaving X.
Other companies have used X and Musk’s unpredictability to bring attention to their own discourse platforms that offer users a similar experience. Mark Zuckerberg’s Threads, Jay Graber’s Bluesky, and the Black-owned app Spill by Alphonzo Terrell and DeVaris Brown are all positioned as alternatives.