Widely patronized social media platform, X, formerly known as Twitter, has announced that it has initiated a trial in New Zealand and the Philippines wherein new users will be charged for basic features such as posting messages.
The objective of this trial is to reduce spam on the platform, says X CEO, Elon Musk.
Newsmen recalls that the tech billionaire acquired the microbloging platform for $44 billion last year. Musk has since been vocal about his concerns regarding fake accounts, bots, and spam on the platform.
In response to the challenges, Musk has implemented several controversial changes that have been met with criticism from users worldwide. The trial, dubbed "Not A Bot," requires new users in New Zealand and the Philippines to pay an annual fee to access features such as the ability to write on X, like and reply to posts, and bookmark content.
"This new program aims to defend against bots and spammers who attempt to manipulate the platform and disrupt the experience of other X users," the company said on its website.
"It is not a profit driver.
"So far, subscription options have proven to be the main solution that works at scale," it added in a separate post on X.
The company stated that the new model will have no impact on existing users. However, new users in the Philippines will be charged approximately $0.75 per year, while those in New Zealand will be charged $0.85. The company further added that users who choose not to pay will only be able to access X in read-only mode, which will restrict them to viewing content and following accounts.
NetSafe, an independent online safety charity in New Zealand, praised the company's efforts to protect its users from potential harm. They stated that any measures taken by a platform to prevent harmful conversations or verify user identities are steps in the right direction.
On the other hand, Jonathan de Santos, the chair of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, expressed concern that this new model would limit user participation. He argued that while the program aims to combat the use of bots, it also places the responsibility of fighting misinformation and disinformation on users.
Newsmen recalls that Musk, in September suggested charging all X users, saying it was the only way to combat the spam and bots that plague the platform.
But the idea was widely panned by users. Industry analysts said it would make X even less appealing to advertisers.
After taking over the company, the billionaire sacked thousands of staff and drew criticism for allowing banned conspiracy theorists and extremists back on the platform, sending advertisers fleeing.
Musk said in July that X had lost roughly half its ad revenue.
A month earlier, he had claimed that almost all advertisers had returned and that 90 per cent of bots had been removed.