In a precedent-setting move, the social media platform X, which most of us still remember as Twitter, has initiated a trial whereby they are charging new users in New Zealand and the Philippines for access to the platform's basic features.
This decision has been both lauded as a strategy to ensure quality control and criticized as a potential barrier to entry for many users.
Tackling Bots and Spam with User Fees
Under the new trial, new users from the Philippines will be required to pay $0.75, while their counterparts in New Zealand will fork out $0.85 annually to be able to post, engage, and utilize the platform's features.
If users opt out of this payment, their access will be curtailed to merely reading posts, watching videos, and following other accounts. The rationale behind this change, as X articulated in a statement, is to "evaluate a potentially powerful measure to help us combat bots and spammers on X, while balancing platform accessibility with the small fee amount." For those unfamiliar with the term, bots are automated accounts controlled by computer programs rather than genuine users.
A Series of Radical Changes under New Ownership
Ever since the tech mogul Elon Musk acquired Twitter for a staggering $44 billion last year, the platform has witnessed a slew of changes – some more contentious than others.
The charging of new users isn't the first controversial decision under Musk's watch. A notable number of employees were laid off, content moderation saw significant reductions, and the renowned blue tick, which was once a hallmark of verified accounts, has been commodified – available to anyone willing to pay an $8 annual fee.
In another surprising move in July, the platform underwent a rebranding exercise, emerging as "X" and shedding the iconic blue bird logo that had been synonymous with Twitter since its inception. Regarding the new fee, X emphasized its commitment to maintaining the platform's integrity, stating that the fee would "bolster existing efforts to reduce spam and manipulation of our platform and bot activity." Only time will tell if this strategy proves effective in enhancing user experience and ensuring genuine engagement on the platform. For now, the global community awaits to see if the fee will indeed be extended to all new users worldwide.