X Tests $1 Annual Fee to Tweet to Once Again Stop the Bots

An anxious, frustrated, depleted, and broken down blue bird pays a machine money for food, shelter, and the ability to chirp. Created using Adobe Firefly.

The company formerly known as Twitter says it will begin charging new users in the Phillippines and New Zealand the equivalent of $1 per year in order to “perform certain actions on the web version of the platform” (emphasis mine). X claims its so-called “Not A Bot” subscription program could help curb bots and spammers on the platform. The fee will grant new and unverified accounts the ability to tweet, like posts, reply (including retweet and quote tweets), and bookmark posts.

Accounts that do not pay the $1 fee will have what’s called “read-only” actions, meaning you can only read tweets, watch videos and follow other accounts.

Existing users are not impacted by the move, though if X finds success with this test, it’s likely all users will have a tough choice to make: Pay up or have their account(s) lie dormant.

Understanding X’s Bot Problem

Anyone who’s been on X knows about the bots. It’s a long-standing issue that existed before the company was acquired by Elon Musk.

Under his regime, the company did away with its blue checkmark verification program, opting instead to bet on its Twitter Blue subscription offering. Having accounts pay $8 per month would likely incentivize good behavior, promote better-quality posts and prevent the reach of bots — at least that was the belief. But that hasn’t solved the problem.

Now it’s trying another program, levying another tax on those who may want to use the service. Understandably, the small annual fee has critics doubting its efficacy in eradicating bots and spammers.

Back in 2011, researcher Chris Kanich estimated spammers could make at least $7,000 per day running a full-service operation. That amount likely has risen significantly a decade later. Even so, to believe these culprits wouldn’t pony up $1 per year is wild because of the long-term rewards they’d receive.

And let’s not forget about the creator payouts Musk is doling out. There’s a lot of money on the table that spammers and bot owners want to take from X, so the $1 per year is a paltry sum to part ways with.

While its effectiveness is questionable, proponents will claim forcing spammers to provide credit card information will make it easier to track down their real identity and shut down these actors.

It’s important to note, however, that the fee is applicable only if you use Twitter.com, not its mobile app. It could be that spammers lack the necessary bot controls on mobile versus the web. Even still, power users and brands may be negatively impacted by this fee versus those who use X beyond reading news posts, finding out what their influencers are up to, etc.

Building Up X’s Financial Database

When I posted about the company’s “Not A Bot” program on social media, a couple of followers chimed in with warnings about giving credit card information to Musk. One posited on Pebble that this was a way for Musk to gain access to our billing information. It may not be entirely correct, but does fit in with the push by X to become the so-called “Everything App” the billionaire wants to create.

Imagine how this could play out: Instead of having a fraction of users provide banking information to X voluntarily, the “Not A Bot” program would mandate it. The company could then build upon that database foundation to leverage other commercial offerings such as e-commerce, banking, etc.

But giving that information out to a company such as X may give people pause, especially with a polarizing leader at its helm. Will users feel comfortable giving Musk more data to track their movement and their identity, especially if they happen to be in countries where governments deem them as dissenters or are part of underrepresented/marginalized groups?

Social Media’s Cover Charge

Existing X users don’t have to panic quite yet. The company hasn’t said when it will roll this out to the public, if at all. But really, there’s no upside to users at all to this: It’s the equivalent of a charge you get when entering into a nightclub. The “Not A Bot” program offers no additional features on X besides what you already can do now. To get an elevated experience, one must pay $8 per month as part of Twitter Blue.

A fee of $1 per year should be something most people can swallow. It’s going to be easy for power users and businesses who still find X relevant to their social media programs. But let’s not kid ourselves: The days of Twitter being one-of-a-kind are over and if people don’t like what they see, they’ll take their activity to competitors including Meta’s Threads, Pebble, Fediverse players Mastodon and Bluesky, and others.

It’s incumbent on Musk, CEO Linda Yaccarino and X to show how this fee will stem spammers and show its success. If users are forced to pay $1 and don’t see results, they’ll see the charge as a way to help Musk pad his wallet and recoup his $44 billion investment in the company and not improve the platform. And that’ll result in a larger exodus than what X has probably seen before.

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