In a recent move, the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, under Elon Musk's stewardship, has initiated a trial run of an annual subscription fee for new and unverified users in New Zealand and the Philippines. The initiative named ‘Not a Bot' imposes a $1 fee on new entrants from these countries, aimed at reducing spam, fake accounts, and bot activity that have been proliferating on the platform.
The announcement came late Tuesday, shedding light on this new method, though leaving many wondering about the specific choice of New Zealand and the Philippines for this trial. The objective behind this test, as stated by the platform, is to augment existing measures against spam and manipulation on X, all the while ensuring the platform remains accessible with a nominal fee. However, the platform clarified that this initiative isn't intended as a revenue-generating measure.
Critics and experts have weighed in on this development, expressing skepticism regarding the effectiveness of such a fee in combating fake accounts. They argue that a modest fee might not deter those intent on creating fake accounts, and could potentially exacerbate the issue.
Among the critics is Kolina Koltai, a researcher at Bellingcat, who opined that extending this fee globally could adversely impact the platform. According to Koltai, the imposition of a nominal fee wouldn't deter individuals or entities keen on proliferating bot accounts, as spending $100 could easily create a hundred new bot accounts. Moreover, the requirement of a fee might deter genuine new users hesitant to part with their credit card information for a mere dollar.
Since acquiring the platform a year ago, Musk has introduced a number of changes including rebranding and restructuring, which included a significant reduction in the content moderation team. These changes, as per some watchdog groups, have led to a rampant misinformation spread, which became prominently visible post the Israel-Hamas conflict.
Previously, Musk had experimented with premium subscriptions to augment the platform's revenue which faced financial strains. One notable change was the introduction of a $8 monthly fee for a blue check verification, a move that had to be temporarily suspended owing to a surge in impostor accounts.
In this new $1 subscription model, subscribers are granted access to basic functionalities like posting content, engaging with other posts, and interacting with other accounts. Conversely, non-subscribers are restricted to merely viewing content and following other accounts.
This trial reflects a part of a broader effort to regulate and monetise user activity on the platform, a trend that's becoming more common across various social media platforms. With the rise in digital misinformation and spam, platforms are exploring various avenues to ensure authenticity and user accountability, albeit with mixed reactions from the user base and industry experts.