Online platform X could soon introduce a monthly fee for all users, its owner Elon Musk said Monday, citing the need to cut down on bots. The tech tycoon had made multiple changes since taking over the site for $44 billion in October last year when it was known as Twitter. He has fired thousands of employees, introduced a paid premium option, cut content moderation, and reinstated formerly banned accounts, including that of former US president Donald Trump, according to a recent report by the AP.
During a live-streamed chat with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on X, a company blog post quoted by CNBC reported Musk said that the site would move toward “requiring a small monthly payment” for users to make it easier to cut down on the proliferation of bots. He said it is the “only way I can think of” to stop “vast armies of bots” from amplifying hate speech and antisemitism.
The chat between Netanyahu and Musk was billed as a discussion about technology and AI, but the conversation quickly turned to free speech and racism on the site. Netanyahu reportedly urged Musk to do more within the confines of the First Amendment to crack down on antisemitism and other forms of hatred on X. Musk has previously used his X account to defend himself against criticisms of his management of the site, saying he is “pro-free speech but against antisemitism and other forms of hatred.”
As for the paywall idea, it would be the first time X would require a monthly subscription to use the website. However, the company has offered a paid service called X Premium (previously Twitter Blue) for $8 per month or $84 annually. Those who subscribe get extra features, including editing posts, half the ad load, prioritized rankings in conversations and searches, and writing longer tweets. X doesn’t disclose how many people subscribe to its premium services, but independent research indicates that the number is small.
The move comes as X grapples with declining revenue, mainly due to the loss of advertiser trust and a decline in US ad sales. The site has also been accused of failing to take down racist and Holocaust-denial content. Last month, it was criticized for taking several days to remove a post by the Auschwitz museum promoting Holocaust denial. Musk has pushed to rebrand the site as X and has vowed to turn it into an “everything app” spanning audio, video, messaging, payments/banking, and more. But he has also clarified that the process will take time, money, and staff, three things that the company currently needs more. A monthly user charge may help X recoup some losses, but more is needed to save the company.