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X announces new paid user program, alienating more consumers

Yesterday, X, formerly known as Twitter, announced it would be testing a new paid user program in New Zealand and the Philippines.  – Photo by Hamza Azeem

In another installment of what has been a series of bizarrely anti-consumer moves, Elon Musk, owner of X, formerly known as Twitter, has announced that some users will need to start paying in order to post on the site. 

Yesterday, X's support account announced the testing of a new program, ostensibly named "Not a Bot," in New Zealand and the Philippines. "New, unverified accounts will be required to sign up for a $1 annual subscription to be able to post & interact with other posts," the post said. "Within this test, existing users are not affected." 

The X post linked to another post on the company's support site, where it further explained that the program, in line with its namesake, aims to "bolster (their) already significant efforts to reduce spam, manipulation of our platform and bot activity." The plan currently only applies to the two listed countries and essentially locks any and all interaction behind this paywall.

Although the plan is as vague as it is arbitrary, its existence is no less perplexing. Depending on who at the company you ask, X is either right on the verge of financial prosperity or still abysmally stuck in an ever-descending hole of debt, made only more cavernous with the $44 billion Musk borrowed to acquire the platform last year. 

While speaking at Vox Media's Code conference in late September, X's CEO Linda Yaccarino expressed optimism about the company, stating her belief that profitability was a realistic goal by next year and that 1,500 advertisers have returned to the platform in the last 12 weeks. 

Musk's thoughts on the platform's success diametrically oppose those of Yaccarino. "Since the acquisition, (the ADL) has been trying to kill this platform by falsely accusing it & me of being anti-Semitic," Musk said in an X post. "Our US advertising revenue is still down 60 percent, primarily due to pressure on advertisers by (the ADL)," Musk said in a following post.

The incident to which Musk is referring is one of his more recent hilariously misguided endeavors, in which he threatened to sue the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) for posting its findings that hate speech on X has grown dramatically under his leadership.

In its report, the ADL explained that its data showed "both an increase in antisemitic content on the platform and a decrease in the moderation of antisemitic posts."

It's important to note that the ADL is not the only group lambasting Musk's laissez-faire approach to content moderation.

A separate report co-published by both the ADL and the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) around the same time found that the use of the N-word had tripled from its yearly average. Additionally, slurs against gay men had increased by 58 percent, and those against transgender people had increased by 62 percent.

Musk is currently involved in a lawsuit against the CCDH for what he claims to be "a scare campaign to drive away advertisers," so it wouldn't be unprecedented for him to target the ADL with similar proceedings. 

All this is to say that X's new policy reeks of desperation. It's clear that despite its CEO's likely faux-optimism, the platform's financial situation continues to grow more dire by the day.

Even if the "Not a Bot" program rolls out to the rest of the world (as these small-scale test initiatives often will not do), it's highly unlikely such a paltry pricing model would do anything to offset the company's operating costs, nor would it be widely adopted enough to remain a viable business strategy in lieu of advertiser revenue.

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