Musk Says ‘X’ Platform May Start Charging Users a Monthly Payment

Charging users is primarily intended to manage large bot networks on the platform, claims Musk.
Musk Says ‘X’ Platform May Start Charging Users a Monthly Payment
Tesla CEO Elon Musk attends a conference at the Porte de Versailles exhibition centre in Paris, France, on June 16, 2023. (Reuters/Gonzalo Fuentes)
Naveen Athrappully

Social media platform X may start charging users a small fee in a bid to counter the use of large bot networks, owner Elon Musk recently revealed during a conversation with the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Mr. Musk is considering “having a small monthly payment for the use of the X system” since it is the “only way I can think of to combat vast armies of bots,” he said during a discussion with Prime Minister Netanyahu on Monday. “Because a bot costs a fraction of a penny, call it a tenth of a penny. But if somebody even has to pay a few dollars or something, some minor amount, the effective cost of bots is very high.” Mr. Musk’s proposal to charge X users came amid discussions regarding the use of bots to spread anti-Semitism on the platform.

In addition to raising the cost of operating vast armies of bots, a small fee will also make such operations tougher since a new payment method has to be used every time a new bot is created, like getting a new credit card, he said.

“We're actually going to come out with a lower tier pricing,” Mr. Musk stated. “We want it to be just a small amount of money … In my view, this is actually the only defense against vast armies of bots because as the AI gets very, very good, it's actually able to pass these sort of CAPTCHA tests better than humans.”

It is unclear whether Mr. Musk intends to charge a small fee for all X users or only introduce a lower tier to the platform’s X Premium program while keeping the network free for those who do not subscribe to it.

The X Premium program costs $11 per month in the United States for iOS and Android users, with web users charged $8.

The subscription gives users additional perks like the ability to edit posts in a one-hour window, be subjected to only half the ads, get prioritized rankings in search and conversations, write longer posts of up to 25,000 characters, and upload videos up to three hours long.

X has already placed its API access program behind a paywall, only offering exceptions to certain government organizations and other publicly owned services.

Prior to February, X used to provide free access to API to developers. The company established API access tiers in a bid to boost revenues. At present, X only offers limited API access for free, with higher tiers charging $100 per month and above.

Antisemitism Charges

During the discussion, Prime Minister Netanyahu said, “I don't even know if it's technically possible to prevent the use of bots, armies of bots [that] replicate and amplify it [antisemitism]. So, at least if you get a crazy guy and a hateful guy, let him be speaking for one voice rather than arming an army of fake millions to do this.”
 Lawmakers surround Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) at a session of the Knesset, Israel's parliament, in Jerusalem on July 24, 2023. (Maya Alleruzzo/AP Photo)
Lawmakers surround Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) at a session of the Knesset, Israel's parliament, in Jerusalem on July 24, 2023. (Maya Alleruzzo/AP Photo)

It is in answer to this question that Mr. Musk suggested implementing a fee to prevent the proliferation of bots on the platform.

Mr. Musk’s conversation with the Israeli prime minister follows his recent announcement that he may take legal action against the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), an advocacy for Jewish causes.

In a Sept. 4 post on X, Mr. Musk said that since he acquired the network, the ADL “has been trying to kill this platform by falsely accusing it and me of being anti-Semitic.”

“Our U.S. advertising revenue is still down 60 percent, primarily due to pressure on advertisers by @ADL (that’s what advertisers tell us), so they almost succeeded in killing X/Twitter.”

“If this continues, we will have no choice but to file a defamation suit against, ironically, the ‘Anti-Defamation’ League. If they lose the defamation suit, we will insist that they drop the ‘anti’ part of their name.”

Back in 2000, ADL was fined $10.5 million by a court in California over a defamation lawsuit. Commenting on the case, Mr. Musk said on X that ADL will potentially be on the hook for destroying “half the value of our company,” which would come to around $22 billion.

“Based on what we’ve heard from advertisers, ADL seems to be responsible for most of our revenue loss. Giving them maximum benefit of the doubt, I don’t see any scenario where they’re responsible for less than 10 percent of the value destruction, so ~$4 billion,” Mr. Musk said in a Sept. 5 post on X.

“Advertisers avoid controversy, so all that is needed for ADL to crush our U.S. and European ad revenue is to make unfounded accusations,” he wrote wrote in another post.

“This ‘controversy’ causes advertisers to ‘pause,’ but that pause is permanent until ADL gives the green light, which they will not do without us agreeing to secretly suspend or shadow ban any account they don’t like.”

X has faced antisemitism cases in Germany. In January, a lawsuit was filed in a German court accusing the platform of promoting Holocaust denial, which is a crime in the country.