So much for freedom of speech on X; Musk says that posting will soon require payment for new users

The fee, likely $1, is aimed at stopping “relentless” bots, Musk said.

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A report from TechCrunch said that Elon Musk stated on Monday that X (formerly Twitter) will start charging new users to post on the app.

“Unluckily, a small fee for new user access to writing is the only way to curb the endless onslaught of bots,” Musk said on X.

In October, X revealed that it was trying whether people would pay a small fee every year to use the platform by billing new users in New Zealand and the Philippines $1 all of a sudden. When new users in those nations paid the fee, they could post, comment, like, and share X posts.

That test was called the “Not-A-Bot” tool, and it’s not clear how well it stopped bots. However, the fact that X chose to make the program bigger suggests that the test must have worked in some way.

Musk hasn’t said when X’s “small fee” may be needed for new users. In a later post, he confirmed that new users who don’t pay the fee will be free to post again after three months. Ars made new accounts on both the website and the app. There were no fees to sign up yet.

Musk’s posts only talk about paying for “write access,” but it looks like this: During those three months, users who don’t pay the fee will also not be able to use the other features that are restricted by the “Not-A-Bot” program. Sunday, an X account called @x_alerts_ saw that X was changing the text in its web app, which seemed to turn on the “Not-A-Bot” tool.

“Changes have been recognized in the texts of the X web app!” @x_alerts_ wrote that the changed text seemed to make it harder to do more than just post and comment. It also made it harder to like and favorite X posts.

“It looks like this work has been in the app, but they lately changed it, so not sure if it’s a sign of launch or not!” The person wrote.

Before X started the “Not-A-Bot” scheme, Musk said that making users pay $1 a year would make it “1000 times harder to control the platform.” X wrote in the help center that the “test was created to add to our already substantial efforts to lower spam, platform abuse, and bot activity.”

TechCrunch said that earlier this month, X told users that it was getting rid of a lot of spam accounts. According to X Support, the purge will probably affect follower numbers because “we’re casting a wide net to make sure X remains safe and anonymous of bots.”

But X’s plan to get rid of bots didn’t seem to work as well as he had hoped. Musk said this week that X is still having trouble with “AI (and troll farms)” that can easily pass X’s “Are you a bot” checks.

Since Musk took over, X’s messages about its bot problem have been all over the place, making it hard to keep up. Musk told members of The Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council last summer that the platform had “removed at least 90 percent of scams” and that it could now “detect and remove troll armies” with “dramatic improvement.”

The Journal was told at the time that it would be very hard to solve X’s bot problem because hackers were always changing their methods and bots were using generative AI to hide themselves.

WSJ was told that Musk’s plan to charge a fee to beat bots won’t work because anyone who wants to spam X can just go to the dark web and buy credit cards and throwaway phones. If a bad person can’t find what they need on the dark web, they could wait three months and then start a scam or spread hurtful information like propaganda or misinformation. Some critics wonder why the small fee is even charged in the first place.

When the “Not-A-Bot” program started, X Support directly refuted critics’ claims that the program was just a test to see if charging small fees could bring in more money for X and help Musk pay off the platform’s debt.

“This new trial has been developed to bolster our already booming work to reduce spam, misuse of our platform, and bot action, while suspending site accessibility with the small fee amount,” X Support wrote. “It is not an earnings driver.”

Musk is probably just doing everything he can think of to get rid of bots on the platform. However, it’s well known that asking a monthly fee hasn’t stopped bots from taking over other online platforms (just ask angry World of Warcraft fans). Musk famously paid too much for Twitter and has been paying off his debt ever since. He said before the deal finished that his goal was to get rid of bots on the site.

“We will remove the spam bots!” Musk sent out a tweet in 2022, back when a tweet was yet a tweet and anyone could utilize Twitter for free.

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