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Twitter owner Elon Musk


Elon Musk is experimenting with far-reaching restrictions on free users of his online platform, which was once called Twitter and is now officially X (even though X's Internet address is still www.twitter.com).

Initially, in New Zealand and the Philippines, new users of the service will only be able to publish posts and quote or redistribute posts by others for a fee of one US dollar per year. You can only use X passively for free: read posts, watch videos, follow other users.

The program is an attempt to protect the platform against automated bot accounts and distributors of spam messages, X announced on Wednesday night. Results will be announced soon.

Advertising revenues have apparently halved

Observers were skeptical: IT security expert Marcus Hutchins noted that he could not think of any bot activity that could be stopped with the fee of one dollar per year. Rather, the move will cost the platform money. "Spammers will use stolen credit cards — and the cost of chargebacks will be higher than subscription revenue," Hutchins wrote on rival service Threads.

Tech billionaire Musk bought Twitter almost a year ago for around $44 billion. Since then, the platform has suffered from a slump in advertising revenue because companies fear a negative environment for their brands. Musk has repeatedly confirmed that the service, which has been renamed X, only makes about half as much money from advertising as Twitter did before it was purchased. He is trying to focus more on subscription fees. For example, he has already restricted how many posts per day users can see without paying a fee of around 9.50 euros per month.

The tech billionaire had already said a few weeks ago that X was moving in the direction of charging a small fee for use. This is the only way to combat bots and spam. After that, however, nothing came for the time being, so it remained unclear whether the announcement would be implemented.

Leaving the services free of charge and financing them with advertising was the successful model with which Facebook, for example, gained several billion users. Twitter has always been smaller. In the meantime, however, according to media reports, the Facebook group Meta is also considering launching a paid version without advertising in Europe. However, the reason for this is not the pursuit of more money, but an attempt to dispel controversies over compliance with European data protection rules.