Elon Musk: This website is free – but not for long

Business

Elon Musk has said he will start charging people to use the social media site formerly known as Twitter.

NBC News reports the billionaire businessman, who renamed the platform to X, revealed on a live stream that the company would introduce a “small monthly payment” to combat “vast armies of bots”.

Musk has long complained about the presence of fake accounts on the platform, and tried to use his concerns to wriggle out of his deal to buy it last year.

He did not offer further details about the new fee, such as a price or whether it would include extra features.

Sky News has contacted X for comment, though its press office is largely unresponsive.

The move would kill off what has long been one of the site’s most popular memes, where users caption shots of particularly striking posts with a near-incredulous “this website is free”.

X already offers a premium subscription costing £9.60 a month, which gives users a verification tick, lets them write longer posts and edit existing ones, and prioritises their account in search results.

Musk spoke about the plans in a conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, where the Tesla and SpaceX owner sought to address criticism over his running of the platform.

Since buying Twitter for $44bn (£38bn), the self-described “free speech absolutist” has been accused of allowing disinformation, racism, misogyny, and antisemitism to thrive.

He has also reinstated previously banned accounts like those of Donald Trump and Andrew Tate.

Last month, the platform was criticised for taking several days to remove posts promoting Holocaust denial, despite being repeatedly highlighted by the Auschwitz Museum.

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0:26

‘Has your ego cost Ukrainian lives?’

Musk insists he’s against ‘hatred’

Musk, who has threatened to sue groups like the Anti Defamation League and Center for Countering Digital Hate for criticising his leadership of X, claimed he was “against attacking any group”.

Referencing his ambition to colonise Mars, he said humanity would never become “a spacefaring civilisation” if “infighting” and “hatred” were allowed to thrive.

Musk also used the live stream with Mr Netanyahu to boast that X now has 550 million “monthly users”, generating between 100 million and 200 million posts per day.

It has remained popular despite increased competition from smaller platforms like Bluesky and Mastodon, and the egregiously similar Threads app from Meta.

Much of Musk’s focus has been on monetising X’s user base, with advertiser spending having dropped due to concerns around his moderation policies.

His long-term plan is to turn it into an “everything app” that can handle things like video calls and even payments, seemingly modelled on China’s WeChat.

Read more:
Why ‘sinister’ Twitter rebrand will be a huge challenge
The landmark bill that could change the way we use the internet

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0:35

Erdogan to Elon Musk: ‘Where is your wife?’

Musk’s conversation with Mr Netanyahu on Monday took place during the politician’s visit to California, which was greeted with some protests.

He has faced huge opposition in his home country over his planned overhaul of the judiciary, which critics say will destroy its system of checks and balances.

It came after Musk met with another world leader, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in New York.

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