I need a dollar: X tests annual $1 subscription in two countries

18 Oct 2023

Image: © bongkarn/Stock.adobe.com

X claims an annual subscription could be a tool to deal with bots and spammers on the site, though X’s existing pay-to-verify model has done little to stop the spread of false information.

X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, is testing an annual $1 subscription service for new users in New Zealand and the Philippines.

The experimental subscription requires users to verify their phone number and select a subscription plan – the other options are X Premium (formerly known as Twitter Blue) or Verified Organisations tier.

X claims the new subscription method – called Not A Bot – is designed to combat bots and spammers on the site while “balancing platform accessibility” with the fee.

“This new test was developed to bolster our already significant efforts to reduce spam, manipulation of our platform and bot activity,” X said on its help page. “Within this test, existing users are not affected.”

New users that opt out of the subscription won’t be able to post on the site and will be restricted to “read-only” actions, such as reading posts, watching videos and following accounts.

“This new program aims to defend against bots and spammers who attempt to manipulate the platform and disrupt the experience of other X users,” the company said. “We look forward to sharing more about the results soon.”

In an interview last month, X owner Elon Musk hinted that the site may be moving behind a paywall for all users in the future, though no time frame or price was given at the time.

Battling the bots

Musk has spoken about the issue of bots on the site before he bought it last year. At one point, he put the acquisition deal on hold and claimed this was due to a lack of information on fake accounts.

Musk also said his concern over bots was the motivation behind pushing the site towards a pay-to-verify model. X’s support account claims subscription options are the “main solution that works at scale” and that the annual fee is “not a profit driver”.

Currently, bots appear to remain a massive issue on the platform regardless of payment-based subscription options. A report from the Wall Street Journal in June claimed fake and spam accounts are still prominent on the site, contrary to claims by Musk.

The pay-to-verify model appears to have done little to hinder the spread of false information on X. Earlier this year, verified accounts spread AI-generated images and hoax claims that the US Pentagon had been bombed.

X is currently under investigation by the EU due to claims that disinformation is running rampant on the platform, particularly during the Israel-Hamas conflict in Palestine. While last month, an EU report claimed Kremlin-backed accounts have grown in influence this year, due to the dismantling of certain safety standards on X.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic