X, formerly Twitter, tests charging new users $1 to tweet, retweet

Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, attends the Viva Technology conference dedicated to innovation and startups at the Porte de Versailles exhibition centre in Paris, June 16, 2023.

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X, formerly Twitter, will begin a test that charges new users $1 annually in order to “post & interact with other posts,” the company said in a recent post.

The social media platform said Thursday evening the move is part of its efforts to combat spam and bot activity. The annual subscription is part of a program the company is calling “Not A Bot,” and will be first tested in New Zealand and the Philippines.

Elon Musk previously said the company planned to move to a subscription fee model in September. X said the changes are not a profit driver.

Users who are unable or unwilling to pay the annual fee will only be able to view posts and follow accounts, the company said. Excess bot activity has been a consistent rallying cry for Elon Musk since before he acquired the company in October 2022.

He first claimed that Twitter, as the platform was previously known, was underreporting the number of bots on the platform as part of his efforts to back out of the binding $44 billion acquisition deal. It was a claim based on analysis that was disputed by numerous experts.

Bot activity has reportedly worsened under Musk’s ownership. Many decisions ordered by Musk have dramatically changed the social media platform, which is widely considered to be a critical part of disaster response infrastructure and an important tool for newsgathering.

Early in his ownership, Musk ordered changes to the way users are verified — phasing out the notability requirements in favor of a paid model — and made cuts to trust and safety teams as part of a broader cost-cutting initiative.

Independent researchers had previously identified a significant number of bot accounts that tout crypto tokens, driving up their prices. Many users have complained about the platform’s degradation, and yet competitors like Bluesky, Meta’s Threads, or Mastodon have yet to mature into meaningful competitors.

It isn’t clear when the paid subscription will roll out worldwide.

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