On Monday, during a live-streamed conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Elon Musk delved into his plans for the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, now branded as X. Amid controversies and criticisms, Musk highlighted new payment structures, reasons for the switch, and ongoing challenges related to bot activity and hate speech.
Moving to a Subscription Model
- Musk announced a significant shift for X, introducing “a small monthly payment” for the platform’s use. This move is primarily aimed at combating “vast armies of bots” which have been a growing concern.
- He did not specify the cost of this new plan, nor what features would be included at the lowest payment tier. However, he mentioned potential “lower tier pricing” than the current X Premium subscription, which stands at around $8 monthly.
- The belief behind the initiative is that mandatory payments will make it difficult for bots to operate, as each would require a unique credit card for registration.
- X is currently seeking licenses to function as a money transmitter across the U.S. It has already secured permission in 8 states, as per public records.
X’s Current State and Past Metrics
During the conversation, Musk shared several metrics:
- X boasts 550 million monthly users generating 100 to 200 million posts daily.
- In contrast, in May 2022, prior to Musk’s takeover, Twitter recorded an “average monetizable daily active usage” of 229 million.
- Musk did not specify how many of X’s monthly users are genuine as opposed to bots.
Recent Controversies Surrounding X
Musk’s discussion with Netanyahu was initially meant to focus on the potential risks of artificial intelligence and its regulation. However, several topics emerged:
- Musk tackled perceptions that X tolerates hate speech and antisemitism.
- This came after several civil rights groups critiqued Musk for promoting bigotry, including antisemitic content on X.
- Musk has recently lashed out against the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), accusing them of causing a 60% revenue drop for X. He threatened a defamation lawsuit against ADL, though no known lawsuit has been filed yet.
- Before the meeting with Netanyahu, Musk accused the Open Society Foundations, founded by Hungarian-American Jewish philanthropist George Soros, of wanting to “destroy” Western civilization.
- Despite these controversies, Musk expressed his desire for unity and against any form of group attack, linking it to his vision of humanity as “a spacefaring civilization.”
Changes Implemented by Musk
After Musk’s $44 billion acquisition of Twitter in late October:
- There were massive staff reductions and significant modifications to the platform.
- He reinstated accounts that had previously been suspended, including former President Donald Trump and other controversial figures.
- Musk eliminated Twitter’s “blue check” verification system, replacing it with a subscriber badge system. Now, only those who pay can display a blue badge, with their posts receiving priority in user feeds. Non-subscribers may experience reduced post-amplification and engagement.
- Under Musk’s leadership, X aims to transform users into paid subscribers, which he believes would make deploying bots both cumbersome and expensive.
The Road Ahead
Though Musk has introduced and teased several changes for X, his history suggests that he might alter or adjust his strategies. Notably:
- Only a few social networks operate strictly on subscriptions, though more are considering this approach due to a challenging ad market.
- Reports suggest that adoption of Premium X, the rebranded version of Twitter Blue, has been sluggish so far. As per a third-party estimate by Mashable in May, between 640,000 to 680,000 users subscribed to Twitter Blue at the end of April.
- Twitter introduced Twitter Blue in 2021, and under Musk, the subscription underwent significant changes.
Elon Musk’s direction for X, amid controversies and changing strategies, signals a significant shift in the landscape of social media platforms. With a focus on monetization, combating bots, and addressing hate speech, the platform’s future will undoubtedly be closely watched by both users and industry experts. The move towards a subscription model by a platform of X’s size and influence has raised numerous questions about the viability of such an approach on a global scale.