Elon Musk has always made a public show of caring about bots on X. Back in the days when the company was called Twitter, and he announced he was going to pay an eye watering sum to buy the company, the reason he gave for subsequently trying to back out was that Twitter refused to say how many bots were on the platform.
He clearly still has, in public at least, the same worries about the percentage of accounts that aren’t actually run by real humans. Now he is leveraging that performative concern to start charging users of unverified accounts (he charges the verified ones $8 a month) $1 a year.
The new scheme is called, appropriately, “Not a Bot” and will only apply to new users for now. It will be piloted in New Zealand and The Philippines. But like most things he does, Musk clearly has global ambitions for the scheme. Not everyone will have to pay, though. The fee is only for people who want to unlock certain features such as, er, posting, liking, replying, and reposting (it still sounds really weird that you can’t call it tweeting and retweeting any more). So for nothing, you get to read posts! That’s a heck of a freemium model!
The move comes as a new survey shows that since Musk took over, traffic on X has been in decline. Intuitively, this doesn't feel like a step that will reverse that trend. The hope is ostensibly that in the long term, getting rid of bots will bring people back to the platform. To make the approach belt and braces, X will not only charge the annual fee, but will require phone verification for new accounts. The company has undertaken to make public any information on the effectiveness or otherwise of the new measures.