Elon Musk threatens to put Twitter behind a paywall
Elon Musk said that a small monthly service fee for using X could help fight off bot operations on the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.
A subscription for all users would make “the effective cost of bots” very high and would require operators to use a new payment method for each account, the billionaire said in a conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Musk’s Tesla offices in Fremont, California.
Netanyahu, who questioned Musk about antisemitism and hate speech on the platform, had asked how he could prevent “vast armies of bots” from amplifying hate speech. X currently has a free tier and subscriptions for individual subscribers and brands, and Musk said bots are the “single most important reason” to shift to monthly payments.
“This is a super tough problem,” Musk responded, saying that it’s the “single most important reason” he’s considering shifting to a monthly payment system. A bot costs a fraction of a penny to operate, he said, under X’s current system, which offers both free and paid tiers. Making someone pay a few dollars to use the service, he said, makes “the effective cost of bots” very high, and would require bot operators to use a new payment method every time they wanted to create a new one.
Musk, who’s been in an ongoing conflict with Jewish civil rights group, the Anti-Defamation League, had said that while it was difficult to “police” the 100 million to 200 million posts a day on X in advance, he could take steps to de-amplify hate speech.
The social media site has been scrambling to win back advertisers who fled after Musk’s chaotic takeover and controversial policy changes, taking more than half the company’s annual revenue with them. Musk announced that the company would post around $US3 billion ($4.7 billion) in revenues in 2023, down from about $US4.4 billion a year earlier.
The company has been offering deals and incentives to try and draw back advertisers, but the enticements don’t solve the biggest concern some of the marketers have with the platform: its reputation for being more permissive of harmful, abusive or racist posts since Musk’s takeover. Multiple ad agency representatives said they still have clients that have not returned to X because of concerns about such content appearing near their promotions.
X also announced a series of moves in recent weeks that have irked advertisers, such as retiring popular types of ads and planning to remove the feature that lets users block others. Nearly a year into Musk’s tenure, advertisers are no longer surprised by his capacity for quick changes, and have become accustomed to having conversations about how to react, said Steve Susi, director of brand communication at Siegel & Gale. “The notion of pivoting budgets away from Twitter is already familiar within those advertisers’ media rooms,” he said.