Would you pay for X?

That’s the question I posed on my X profile. Of course, it’s a controversial question if you consider social media as we know it today has always been free-to-use.

The majority of votes went towards a stern ‘No’. Why would you pay for something historically free to access and use to your heart’s desire? Well. X’s new overlord, Elon Musk, believes that access is a privilege – one that only paying customers may enjoy.

The purchase

In a bid to revolutionise Twitter, ahem, X, Elon Musk, the outspoken CEO and tech visionary, declared his mission to vanquish spam bots from the platform.

On 21 April 21 2022, just days before his bid to acquire Twitter was accepted, Musk pledged a solemn vow: “If our Twitter bid succeeds, we will defeat the spam bots or die trying!” However, despite his fervent commitment to this cause, Musk’s approach to combating the bot infestation has raised eyebrows and questions about his true intentions.

Musk’s primary grievance with Twitter was its inundation by spammers, scammers, and bot armies, a concern he vocalised throughout his campaign to purchase the platform. He vowed to authenticate genuine human users and purge the platform of artificial activity.

He claimed he had made significant strides, asserting a 90% reduction in scams and spam. However, cybersecurity experts contradicted these claims, revealing in September that fake activity remained rampant on the platform.

The $1 pilot

The proposed solution surfaced recently: a nominal fee of $1 per year for new users to tweet or retweet, aptly named the “Not a Bot” policy.

This approach, while seemingly a deterrent for lazy bot-makers, falls short of addressing the broader issue of manipulation on the platform. Critics argue that the move primarily serves to familiarise users with paying for Twitter services, a significant departure from the platform’s historically free model since its inception in 2006.

The concept of charging users for tweeting is not new; Musk first suggested it during an interview with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He argued that even a small charge could discourage bots, emphasising the inconvenience factor for malicious actors.

However, the shift toward a paid model has sparked concerns about user adoption and Musk’s intentions to monetise Twitter.

The vision

Musk’s vision for Twitter goes beyond mere social media – it aims to transform Twitter into an all-encompassing super-app similar to China’s WeChat.

This ambition, while grand, faces challenges in the American market, where Apple and Google control app transactions, taking a substantial cut.

Despite these hurdles, Musk persists in his quest to make Twitter a platform where users pay for premium features, effectively commodifying the platform’s fundamental aspects leading some to view this move as extortionary.

While the future of Musk’s Twitter venture remains uncertain, his attempts to reshape user habits and introduce payments into the Twitter ecosystem are met with scepticism.

Whether he can truly eliminate spam bots and achieve his vision of an all-encompassing “X, the everything app” remains to be seen, but one thing is clear: Musk’s approach to transformation is undeniably bold, even if it raises ethical and practical concerns.

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