X, formerly known as Twitter, is testing a signup model wherein new users will have to either pay to become a verified enterprise account, opt into an X premium subscription, or pay a $1 annual fee to prove they’re not a bot. The trial, which began on Oct. 17, is currently only applicable to new users in New Zealand and the Philippines.
The experiment, according to a post on X’s Help Center, is called “Not A Bot.” As its name implies, its purpose is reportedly to deter bot activity on the app by requiring all users (that are included in the test) to verify their phone number and payment method.
Per the Help Center post:
“As of October 17th, 2023 we’ve started testing “Not A Bot”, a new subscription method for new users in two countries. This new test was developed to bolster our already significant efforts to reduce spam, manipulation of our platform and bot activity.”
The post goes on to state that “new users,” who pay the $1 subscription fee, “will be able to perform certain actions on the web version of the platform: post content, Like posts, Reply, Repost and Quote other accounts’ posts, Bookmark posts.”
Those who don’t pay the fee and opt out of subscribing, “will only be able to take “read only” actions, such as: Read posts, Watch videos, and Follow accounts.”
Correct, read for free, but $1/year to write. It’s the only way to fight bots without blocking real users.
This won’t stop bots completely, but it will be 1000X harder to manipulate the platform.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 18, 2023
It’s unclear at this time exactly how X intends to determine the effectiveness of the “Not A Bot” trial. Our request for commentary to the company solicited an immediate response of “busy now, please check back later.”
Previous research on the nature of social media “bots” has revealed the term to be nebulous. According to one study (Gorwa, et. al., 2018), it isn’t always obvious whether accounts generating bot-like behavior are in fact bots.
There’s also the consideration that bots, and their behavior, are likely to become far more sophisticated in light of the ongoing large language model-driven revolution in consumer-facing artificial intelligence chatbot technology.
According to X, the subscription is meant to chop the bots off at the knees by making it not only difficult to automate the signup process but, per the language used by X, also supposedly financially deterring the organizations and individuals responsible from deploying them.
Reaction in the crypto and finance communities — where spam bots remain an ongoing problem — has ranged from outright acceptance of the pay-to-interact model to a rejection of the premise.
$0.08 per month is pretty affordable for no bot manipulation.
Anyone who complains about this simply wants the bot manipulation to run rampant.
— Colin Talks Crypto (@ColinTCrypto) October 18, 2023
One user replying to a post from a popular account sharing the news called the move a value prospect at less than 10 cents U.S. per month, stating “anyone who complains about this simply wants the bot manipulation to run rampant.” Another simply opined that it represented “the end of X. It had a short run.”