In a recent discussion with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Elon Mask, owner of the online platform X—formerly known as Twitter—mentioned the possibility of instituting a monthly user fee. The proposed fee aims to mitigate the presence of bots on the platform.

Elon Mask
Elon Mask
Benjamin Netanyahu
BERLIN, GERMANY – MARCH 16: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (not pictured) speak to the media following talks at the Chancellery on March 16, 2023 in Berlin, Germany.

Context of the Proposal

Elon Musk acquired the online platform X for $44 billion in October of last year. Since then, the technology entrepreneur has implemented numerous changes, including layoffs, the introduction of premium options, and adjustments to content moderation policies. The suggestion of a monthly fee for all users came during a conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the subject of online hate speech and bots.

Musk’s Reasoning

In his conversation with Netanyahu, Musk posited that a monthly fee could act as an effective deterrent against the use of bots—automated accounts known for distorting online dialogue and disseminating misinformation. “A bot costs a fraction of a penny, but if a user has to pay even a minor amount monthly, the economic viability of maintaining bots diminishes,” said Musk. His remarks raise the issue of how such a change would affect not just bot activity, but also user access and engagement.

Changes Since Acquisition

Since acquiring X, Musk has initiated several changes. Among the more notable moves are the layoffs of thousands of employees and the introduction of a premium subscription service. Other changes include a reduction in content moderation and the reinstatement of previously banned accounts, such as that of former U.S. President Donald Trump. In July, Musk disclosed that these changes have led to a nearly 50% reduction in advertising revenue for the platform.

Current Costs of Premium Service

The discussion of a new monthly fee for all users also begs the question of how this would align with X’s current premium subscription model. At present, the premium version of X is available for $8 a month in the United States, though the cost varies by country. Introducing an additional fee for general usage could alter the platform’s revenue streams and user base demographics.

Netanyahu’s Concerns

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu initiated the discussion about bots, specifically inquiring how X plans to combat the amplification of online hate speech through automated accounts. The topic has broader implications, particularly in the current political climate where online platforms often serve as venues for ideological battles, and where the use of bots for spreading misinformation is a matter of increasing concern.

Accessibility and Free Speech for Proposed Monthly Fee

The proposed monthly fee brings up ethical and societal concerns. While the fee may deter bot activity, it could also present a barrier to entry for users who cannot afford it. This raises questions about the platform’s accessibility and its role in public discourse. Musk’s idea also leads to debates on the trade-offs between combating misinformation and ensuring open access to digital spaces.

A Balancing Act

The prospect of introducing a monthly fee on X has opened up multiple avenues of discussion, from the efficacy of such a move in combating bots to the ethical implications concerning accessibility and free speech. As X continues to evolve under Elon Musk’s ownership, the proposed fee represents just one of many possible changes that could significantly impact the platform’s role in public discourse.

Sources Cited

  • Record of Conversation between Elon Musk and Benjamin Netanyahu on September 18, 2023
  • X Financial Report, July 2023