By charging customers, social media can be a safer place.

By charging customers, can social media can be a safer place? (Photo by Alain JOCARD / AFP)

Can payments make social media platforms safer?

  • New users to X may soon have to pay a subscription fee to use features on the platform. 
  • Elon Musk also announced new user subscription tiers on X to boost content management. 
  • New X users in New Zealand and the Philippines have begun testing the new features. 

Bots remain one of the biggest problems in social media. Despite social media companies enhancing their features to deal with bots, they just keep coming back. One of the reasons for that could be that creating a social media account does not involve any payments.

Another problem with social media is the amount of negativity it brings into lots of lives. Racism and hate comments thrive on social posts as keyboard warriors bombard comment sections, often with remarks that can be harsh, distasteful, or even threatening. Most times, those who post such comments get away with it as there is no effective mechanism in place to detect them.

What if social media accounts started charging users? Would that drive a reduction in bot activity, racism, and hate speech? Or would it also lead to fewer people using social media? Either way, we may soon find out if charging users to use social media will improve the experience on the platform.

Elon Musk is on a mission to prove this. According to reports, new users to X in the Philippines and New Zealand will need to pay a US$1 annual fee. The fee includes a year’s access to key functions on the platform such as tweeting, replying, retweeting and liking.

Musk announced the subscription plans few weeks ago. Will other social media platforms follow?

Musk announced the subscription plans few weeks ago.

Not A Bot

In a statement, X stated that the “Not A Bot” features will be a new subscription method for new users in both countries. The charges, which took effect on October 17, were developed to bolster X’s already significant efforts to reduce spam, manipulation of the platform and bot activity.

“This will evaluate a potentially powerful measure to help us combat bots and spammers on X while balancing platform accessibility with the small fee amount. Within this test, existing users are not affected,” stated X.

Looking into details of the subscription, new accounts on the web in New Zealand and the Philippines will first be required to verify their phone number. The new users will then be charged a payment of US$1 (depending on the exchange rate).

New users who choose not to make a payment can still use the platform. However, they will only be able to take “read-only” actions, such as: Read posts, Watch videos, and Follow accounts.

“This new program aims to defend against bots and spammers who attempt to manipulate the platform and disrupt the experience of other X users. We look forward to sharing more about the results soon,” added X.

You get what you pay for

Apart from the subscription fee, X also announced new premium tiers for users. X Premium will be an opt-in, paid subscription that offers additional features to improve user experience on X. Starting at US$3 a month, X Premium has three tiers: Basic, Premium, and Premium+. The table below shows the breakdown of the pricing for Premium X in some countries. The full list can be found here.

The cost of social media. X payment tiers. (Source - X)

The cost of social media. X payment tiers. (Source – X)

X said that all X Premium features associated with each tier will be available immediately except the blue checkmark. The blue checkmark, which was an iconic symbol for Twitter before Musk took over the company and arguably devalued it, will now only appear on eligible profiles subscribed to the Premium or Premium+ tiers after a review to ensure subscribed accounts meet all eligibility criteria.

For organizations, there’s a totally different price range. With the aim of creating the most trusted place on the internet for organizations to interact with their followers, X Verified Organizations lets organizations of all types–businesses, non-profits, and government institutions–sign up, manage their verification and affiliate and verify any related account.

“Any organization that purchases a subscription to Verified Organizations will receive a gold checkmark and square avatar if they are a business or non-profit, or a grey checkmark and square avatar if they are a governmental or multilateral organization.

In addition, organizations can choose to affiliate any X account associated with them. An affiliated account receives verification (denoted by either a blue, gold, or grey checkmark) as well as an affiliate badge, a small image of their parent organization’s profile picture, displayed next to their checkmark. Clicking or pressing this badge takes a user directly to the affiliated organization, making it a great driver of followers from your whole network on X,” explained X.

A Verified Organizations subscription is US$1,000/month and US$50/month for each additional affiliate.

A screenshot of Premium X (Source - X) shows the way social media works when run by billionaires.

A screenshot of Premium X (Source – X)

What makes X Premium stand out in social media?

X Premium basic users will be able to edit their posts within an hour of publication. Users will also be able to post longer posts – up to 25,000 characters – and share longer video uploads. Other features on X Premium include the ability to prioritize ranking in replies, highlight posts, bookmark folders and the ability to turn long threads into a reading feature.

In terms of security, X Premium will add another layer of protection to accounts, with access to two-factor authentication via SMS. Premium subscribers can also initiate encrypted direct messages with other Premium accounts.

For the Premium and Premium+ tiers, apart from the blue checkmark, users will also receive a share of the revenue generated from verified accounts’ organic impressions of ads displayed in the replies of content posted on X. There are also monetization opportunities through creator subscriptions.

As expected, Premium tier subscribers will see approximately 50% fewer ads in the For You and Following Timelines, while Premium+ tier subscribers see no ads in their timelines. There are also a few other features to improve management and content on the platform.

Security will be paramount to subscribing users on paid-for social media. (Source - X)

Security will be paramount to subscribing users. (Source – X)

Making a difference to social media

The impact of the move to charge subscription fees to X users remains to be seen. With New Zealand and the Philippines still testing the services, it will be interesting to see how the new fees will impact global usage of the platform.

When Musk took over X, a lot of users vented and left the platform, moving to alternatives. Yet, statistics show that X still has a huge number of active accounts and millions of tweets are still posted daily. In fact, statistics show that the social media giant still has about 354.9 million users.

It is also important to note that X isn’t the only platform that is charging users. Meta just announced that it will soon charge Instagram users a fee to remove ads on the platform in Europe. This is in line with guidelines set by regulators there.

Social media will soon charge you to tell the boss what you think.

The nature of a safe space on social media is somewhat self-contradictory.

At the end of the day, social media has gone from being a safe haven for users to express themselves to a rather toxic environment in just two decades.

Perhaps the subscription, verification and payment requirements will be the only way of ensuring the platform can go back to being a safe environment for everyone to use.

Although “everyone” might be a moveable feast.