Elon Musk has a plan to curb the influx of bots on X - but I fear it could end the social media platform for good

Twitter social media application change logo to X. Elon Musk CEO of twitter rebranded Twitter to 'X'. Social media application technology concept.
(Image credit: Cat Box via Shutterstock)

Details spotted by the automated account @XUpdatesRadar have highlighted upcoming potential changes coming to the shriveled remains of Twitter. One of the more crucial changes spotted by the account (which monitors text string changes on the app) states that "New accounts are required to pay a small annual fee before you're able to post, like, bookmark, and reply. This is to reduce spam and to create a better experience for everyone. You can still follow accounts and browse X for free."

So, if you’ve managed to escape being on X/Twitter thus far and you’re looking to make a new account, there’s a high likelihood that you’ll be asked to pay a small annual fee to verify that you’re not a bot. According to Mashable this actually started last year in New Zealand and the Philippines, to try to reduce spam activity on the app as part of the ‘Not a Bot’ program. 

Elon Musk confirmed this change on Twitter and stated it was necessary as “Current AI (and troll farms) can pass “are you a bot” with ease.”

We don’t know how much the fee will be as of right now, though in New Zealand and the  Philippines, it was set at $1, which is not awful - but does feel like a violation of one of the main draws of social media.

I can’t think of any mainstream social media platform that requires you to pay to join, and if we’re being honest here, the influx of trash bot accounts is all Musk’s fault anyway. There’s been a noticeable rise in bot activity - as any regular X user can likely attest - since the Tesla CEO took over the site. Laying off 70% of Twitter’s staff and changing moderation policies, redefining ‘hate speech’, and generally allowing the platform to fall into disarray is a bad idea for keeping your platform human-led. 

A new wave of subscriptions? 

This post on Reddit is from just seven months ago and has dozens of users complaining about how up until recently, they’ve never had this many bot interactions, spam comments, and even bots requesting to follow them. Pre-Musk, it was a rarity for a bot to actually request to follow you.  Even Paul Tassi wrote in Forbes that the reality is that “this is almost certainly the result of Musk laying off 70% of Twitter’s staff where yes, the site is still functional, but the quality has been degraded and whoever used to actually be keeping at least some measure of the bots in check is now gone.” 

Let’s be real… 75%+ of X is bots now right? from r/Twitter

That being said, that’s not really the reason why this policy has me worried about the future of my beloved social media apps. Remember last year, when Netflix decided to hike its prices and ‘crackdown on password sharing’ - a move that was incredibly unpopular amongst consumers, but kicked off a wave of other platforms doing the same

That’s what I’m thinking about as Musk muses on charging new X/Twitter users worldwide to engage with the platform. Companies are always looking for another way to squeeze subscriptions out of you, and all it takes is a big name in the industry to implement a change we can’t fight against for the rest to follow. Who’s to say it’ll continue to be reserved for new accounts only? Or that Instagram, TikTok, or Facebook won’t take up the same policy and add their own irritating caveats?

Overall, while many of us may not be affected by this change as users with existing accounts, we do have to keep an eye out for how this policy could escalate if it does. It could usher in the end of free social media platforms - or, it could just be another one of Musk’s confusing policy changes that we all freak out about but end up having to accept or forget about. After all, he’s been banging on for ages about changes to X that have never actually materialized…

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Muskaan Saxena
Computing Staff Writer

Muskaan is TechRadar’s UK-based Computing writer. She has always been a passionate writer and has had her creative work published in several literary journals and magazines. Her debut into the writing world was a poem published in The Times of Zambia, on the subject of sunflowers and the insignificance of human existence in comparison. Growing up in Zambia, Muskaan was fascinated with technology, especially computers, and she's joined TechRadar to write about the latest GPUs, laptops and recently anything AI related. If you've got questions, moral concerns or just an interest in anything ChatGPT or general AI, you're in the right place. Muskaan also somehow managed to install a game on her work MacBook's Touch Bar, without the IT department finding out (yet).