Elon Musk has casually announced plans to start charging a monthly fee to everyone using X, his new name for Twitter.
The world’s richest man revealed the planned paywall late Monday during a chat with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in which he was asked how he intends to deal with the large armies of bots that amplify hate speech.
“The single most important reason we’re moving to have a small monthly payment for use of the X system is it’s the only way I can think of to combat vast armies of bots,” Musk replied casually.
He explained that adding a subscription to access the social media site would make it difficult for bots to create accounts because they would each need to register a new credit card.
Musk did not specify how much money he would charge each user, but said it would be “lower-tier pricing” than what X charges its premium subscribers — which is about $8 each month.
“We’re wanting it to be just a small amount of money,” he said.
“It’s a longer discussion, but in my view, this is the only defense against vast armies of bots, because as AI gets very, very good, it’s actually able to pass these sort of CAPTCHA tests better than humans.”
Musk had previously floated the idea of requiring users to pay a monthly fee last year amid vast layoffs at the company, according to a report from the tech newsletter Platformer.
It reported that the Tesla CEO had discussed the idea with venture capitalist David Sacks in November, but the idea was dismissed in favor of first offering wide-scale verification.
But the company is continuing to hemorrhage money, with Musk announcing earlier this month that Twitter’s ad revenue was down 60%.
He blamed the challenges from the Anti-Defamation League for the loss of revenue after the nonprofit reported a spike in hate speech on X following the reinstatement of banned accounts there.
Musk tweeted that the ADL was “trying to kill this platform by falsely accusing it & me of being anti-Semitic.”
As he faced backlash for that tweet, Musk announced he would meet with Netanyahu.
“Basically he’s saying, ‘If I had to pay too much for Twitter you do too,’” journalist Kara Swisher tweeted upon hearing the news.
The announcement that X may be put behind a paywall drew ire on the platform, with journalist David Leavitt tweeting that the move would be “the death of this app.”
“The whole reason social media is popular is because they’re free and your friends are on it,” he said. “Not everyone can afford to pay.”
Historian Alex von Tunzelmann added: “Even if you were happy to pay a fee, I really don’t think it would be a brilliant idea to entrust this company with your credit card or bank details.”