Rumors have been swirling that Elon Musk will begin charging an access fee for X/Twitter. The first iteration of that appears to be here with a ‘not a bot’ fee charged to New Zealand and the Philippines. Here’s the latest.
As of October 17, X/Twitter is now experimenting with the subscription cost in these countries as a way to “bolster our already significant efforts to reduce spam, manipulation of our platform, and bot activity.” The fee is only for new users who attempt to sign up for the service, it does not impact existing users in these countries.
New users in New Zealand and the Philippines will be asked to perform a series of steps to gain access to the site. The first is verifying a phone number, which is tied to a real identity. The second is choosing a subscription plan $1 annual fee. Twitter says new users who choose not to subscribe may only be able to perform ‘read-only’ actions like reading posts, watching videos, or following accounts. Accounts that want to post content, like posts, reply, repost, or quote another posts’ feed will need to subscribe.
While X/Twitter stresses this test is only for new users, it would not be surprising to see the requirement rolled out site-wide. Many social media sites are adopting a read-only stance for users who are not logged in or at least subscribing to the site or its creators in some capacity. Reddit has limited the ability of logged out users to see content—with users needing to be logged in to upvote and comment.
Elon Musk floated a potential subscription charge to access Twitter when discussing the platform with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. While this new plan implements some of what he talks about in that conversation—it is currently limited to new users. Musk says he believes this will limit bot makers’ capacity to create large bot farms because they will need a new payment method.
Meanwhile, a new report from Reuters suggests that ad revenue from Twitter has declined precipitously since Musk’s takeover. Advertising revenue has declined 55% year-over-year each month since he purchased Twitter in October 2022. U.S. ad revenue dropped by 78% in December 2022 compared with the same month the previous year; the steepest decline in Twitter revenues since Musk’s takeover.