After Elon Musk hinted last month that X might start charging all users, the company (formerly known as Twitter) announced a test of such a system.
X said in a job on Tuesday he is testing a new program called “Not a robot” in which new users in New Zealand and the Philippines will need to sign up for a $1 annual subscription to post and interact with other posts.
The test will only apply to new web accounts and fees will be waived if users sign up for X’s $3.99 per month premium subscription service. New users in the test region who opt out of the premium and annual subscription will only be able to read publications, watch videos and follow accounts, but not interact on the platform. Existing users will not be affected as part of the test.
The company said in its post that the program aims to “enhance our already successful efforts to reduce spam, manipulation of our platform and bot activity, while balancing the accessibility of the platform with the small amount of fees,” adding that fees are not meant to be a profit driver.
The test comes after Musk encouraged users to sign up for X Premium to reduce spam and scam activity on the platform, suggesting that requiring credit card payments helps verify identity of a user and creates a higher barrier to entry for inauthentic accounts. As an added incentive, premium users receive a blue check mark, have their posts boosted by the platform’s algorithm, and are eligible to receive payments under X’s new ad revenue sharing program.
It also comes after Musk made a vague statement during a conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last month, suggesting he might start charging all users. He said the company was “considering charging a small monthly payment for the use of System X” because it is “the only way I can think of to fight vast armies of robots.”
Experts, however, said that many bad actors are more than willing and able to pay for inauthentic accounts on the platform. In theory, a person could also pay to verify an account and then allow a computer to run it, creating an automatically verified account (or “bot”).
X came under fire last week for false and misleading claims widely shared on the platform regarding the war between Israel and Hamas. The European Commission officially opened an investigation into X last week after a previous warning about disinformation and illegal content on its platform linked to the conflict.
X claims to have deleted “hundreds of accounts affiliated with Hamas”, deleted thousands of messages since the attack on Israel by Hamas and intensified its community notes, its program which allows users to check the messages of other users. “X is tackling false and manipulated content identified during this ever-evolving and changing crisis,” X CEO Linda Yaccarino said in a letter to European Commissioner Thiery Breton last week.