Elon Musk Social media platform X could go behind paywall

Elon Musk: Social media platform X could go behind paywall – BBC

  • By James Clayton
  • North America Technology Reporter

September 19, 2023, 03:04 BST

Updated 46 minutes ago

Image source: Getty Images

Elon Musk has suggested that all users of X, formerly called Twitter, may have to pay for access to the platform.

In a conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the billionaire said a payment system was the only way to counter bots.

“We are moving to making a small monthly payment for using the system,” said the Tesla and SpaceX boss.

The BBC contacted X for further details but has not yet received comment from the corporation.

It is unclear whether this was just a spontaneous comment or a signal of more concrete plans that have yet to be announced.

Mr Musk has long said his solution to eliminating bots and fake accounts on the social media platform involves charging for verification.

Since taking over Twitter last year, he has tried to incentivize users to pay for an expanded service, now called X Premium.

This was achieved by providing paid subscribers with more features, such as longer posts and increased visibility on the platform.

However, users can currently still use X for free.

Although the company has a clear financial interest in charging users, Mr. Musk insisted that getting people to pay for the service is aimed at combating bots.

“A bot costs a fraction of a penny,” he said. “But if someone has to pay even a few dollars or something like that, a small amount, the effective cost of bots is very high.”

X Premium currently costs $8 (£6.50) per month in the US. The price varies depending on which country a subscriber is located in.

The world’s richest person said he is now looking for cheaper options for users.

“We will actually set a lower price. So we want it to be a small amount of money,” he said.

“This is a long discussion, but in my opinion this is actually the only defense against huge armies of bots,” Mr Musk added.

However, there is a risk that X will lose a large proportion of its users by putting up a paywall. This, in turn, could lead to a decline in advertising revenue, which currently accounts for the majority of the company’s revenue.

Mr. Musk’s conversation with the Israeli prime minister also touched on anti-Semitism on X.

The platform has been accused by campaign group Anti-Defamation League (ADL) of not doing enough to stop anti-Semitic content.

In a statement, the organization said Mr. Musk “engages with and elevates anti-Semites.”

Earlier this month, he said the company would sue the ADL to “clear the name of our platform.”

Speaking to Mr. Netanyahu, Mr. Musk reiterated that he was “against anti-Semitism.”

Mr. Netanyahu acknowledged that balancing free speech and content moderation was a challenge, but urged Mr. Musk to find the right balance.

“I hope that within the confines of the First Amendment you will find the opportunity to stop not just anti-Semitism … but any collective hatred of people that anti-Semitism constitutes,” he said.

“I know you are committed to this,” Mr. Netanyahu added.