back to article X marks the bot: Musk thinks spammers won't pay $1 a year

X, the social network formerly known as Twitter, has started a trial $1 fee for new users to cut down on bots Elon Musk blames for many of the platform's woes. The trial was announced in whatever we're supposed to call a tweet these days. That missive states: "Starting today, we're testing a new program (Not A Bot) in New …

  1. Winkypop Silver badge

    Thanks for the belly laugh, I needed that

    Me, give Musk, my phone and credit card number?

    Just to be exposed to his far-right shit-womble?


    1. veti Silver badge

      Re: Thanks for the belly laugh, I needed that

      Yeah, it's hard to see the amount as a deterrent.

      But the degree of trust required to give this information to His Muskiness... as we say in New Zealand, "Yeah, nah".

      I kinda get why the Philippines might be a reasonable place to trial this, but why NZ? I didn't think we were a hotbed for spammers or bots. Is it just because the market is so insignificant, if it dries up completely that's not much of a loss?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Thanks for the belly laugh, I needed that

        Nah, he's looking for a pretext to drop something big and full of LOX and LNG on Mahia. Oops, so sorry. </conspiracy>

      2. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Thanks for the belly laugh, I needed that

        As I understand it, New Zealand is a popular market for testing things because it's kind of small, same level of economic activity and average wealth as other developed countries, and people speak English. The small size means it's easy to cancel unsuccessful experiments. The personal wealth means that you can judge what customers in similar countries, often the most interesting to profit-motivated companies, will do. The English means that you don't have to deal with any translation issues when producing scripts for customer service or even user feedback assuming you read it, since most of the companies doing this are based in an anglophone country. Musk is certainly not the first person to use New Zealand as the proxy for the rest of the developed world. Usually, when companies do that, they start with New Zealand, go on to either Australia or Canada, and then roll things out for the big US and UK markets. I'm not really sure why Ireland isn't as popular, but maybe it is and I just haven't seen the examples. Countries speaking other languages get included differently based on the company, with some of them including a lot of them from the start and some others treating them as unimportant ones that just get whatever everyone else gets.

        1. cheb

          Re: Thanks for the belly laugh, I needed that

          The world equivalent of the bit of wallpaper behind the radiator?

          cf: Scotland and the UK.

        2. Allonymous Coward

          Re: Thanks for the belly laugh, I needed that

          I’d heard this too. I seem to remember it being one reason NZ got EFTPOS (Brit translation: direct debit) so early. I remember it being quite commonly used in the 80s/early 90s.

          1. katrinab Silver badge

            Re: Thanks for the belly laugh, I needed that

            The UK introduced direct debits in 1964.

        3. Bebu Silver badge

          Re: Thanks for the belly laugh, I needed that

          《I'm not really sure why Ireland isn't as popular》

          I suspect one reason is that if you really screw up, NZ is such a small place, pretty much at the other side of the world, that anyone in N. America or Europe isn't going to take much notice. To be honest in AU we don't much notice either other than remark that the sheep must be getting a break.

          Another reason might be that NZ is/was? the residence of Kim Dotcom who might have shat in Musk's nest in the past.

        4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Thanks for the belly laugh, I needed that

          "I'm not really sure why Ireland isn't as popular,"

          Probably because either CxOs don't realise it's not the UK (except for tax purposes) or they realise if it went wrong and had to be scrapped it would be hard to stop the reputational damage overflowing into the UK.

          1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

            Re: Thanks for the belly laugh, I needed that

            The idea mutated into a computational "proof of work" so that computational costs which would be manageable for legitimate users would be huge for spammers. And that, in turn, mutated into bitcoin. And the rest, as they say, is spam.

          2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

            Re: Thanks for the belly laugh, I needed that

            Surely a more serious concern is that Ireland is in the EU and no multinational with any sense wants to be seen picking on a small EU country, lest the larger ones take offence.

        5. katrinab Silver badge

          Re: Thanks for the belly laugh, I needed that

          Probably Ireland isn't popular because they generally treat it as being part of the UK, which, of course, it is not.

      3. Tim 11

        Re: Thanks for the belly laugh, I needed that

        I beleive the point is that if your (scammer/spammer) business model involes signing up for millions of accounts every year then the total amount would become a deterrent.

        Someone mooted the idea a few years ago of charging a nominal amount to send an email, but since email is completely decentralised it's difficult to see how that could work

        1. Julian 8 Silver badge

          Re: Thanks for the belly laugh, I needed that

          I can easily imagine that lots of these are not using their own cards, but cloned ones, so once signed up and verified, if the card is cancelled and then account follow, the spam/sms has already gone and they do not care

          No deterrent at all really

        2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

          Re: Thanks for the belly laugh, I needed that

          Bill Gates was one of those who suggested charging for e-mails. This was after discovering the internet couldn't be owned and that Windows machines were particularly susceptible to infestation. Solultion: make the victims pay!

        3. garwhale Bronze badge

          Re: Thanks for the belly laugh, I needed that

          Use a micropayment blockchain register for emails. No payment ⇒ /dev/nul.

      4. garwhale Bronze badge

        Re: Thanks for the belly laugh, I needed that

        If you want to create 1,000 bot accounts, it might well be a deterrent. I guess the testing is more to find out if users will pay $1, rather than encourage bot account creators to use a VPN.

  2. TheMaskedMan Silver badge

    If I had any inclination to Xit, I'd be using a burner. I thought Xitter was losing users - there can't be many people who want to use it who don't already have an account, surely?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Most people I "know" on Twitter use burner email addrs, I know I do. Even people who promote their business interested via Twitter seem to.

      As to loosing users, AFAIK you're right, they are loosing real users, but ever since Musk bought Twitter and fired everyone who knew what they were doing the amount of Spam on there has gone through the roof. My account is purely for perving around and there is very little reason why non "friends" (and I use they term rather loosely) would ever want to follow me, but my number of followers has gone through the roof but if you look at them they have posted less than bugger all, follow almost no one and have less than a handful of followers. They are basically the cheapest sort of bot. They often find the most obscure posts to like, replies to long deleted posts. And I know that if I reply to posts by certain more interesting people I know I'll get a dozen or more pings from these random bots.

      Twitter's signal to noise ratio since the take over, or basically since they stopped trying to police things, has nose dived.

      Will I give them a CC number? no, not even the burner CC.

      Will I give them the details of my mobile, no, I access it from a browser inside a VM on a burner PC.

  3. AVR

    Failure inherent to the idea

    The going rate for retweets is about 12 cents US each. Spammers will just price $1/year into their rates.

    Looking at it from the other side, this can't make a significant dent in X's losses even if everyone still there signs up for $1/year, which they won't.

    Pretty sure this is just Musk flailing around again.

    1. hittitezombie

      Re: Failure inherent to the idea

      More a ruse to get your credit card details for further usage.

      1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

        Re: Failure inherent to the idea

        "As we've already got your credit card details, why not use the totally safe, absolutely nothing can go wrong, payment system, with added Muskovision?"

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Verification by post

      If real-person verification is important, X could send a verification letter instead. Phone number could be used later for convenience. Assuming posting on X is so important to someone, the person could wait a little.

      The verified-mark could show country and postal code for the person where the letter was sent. X should make sure that same address is not used more than 2-3 times. Optionally the letter could be sent by registered mail or Fedex with appropriate price tag.

      Such measures should make X a real platform again. Else, what's the point of the check-marks?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I've just done an Xit anyway. Hopefully Xitter will soon cease to Xist. Or is that Xsessive?

    No, I think that's Xactly Xcoriating.

    It'll be nice to see Xitter as an X company

  5. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

    (slap, slap) It's secure now!

    Because nobody can make an anonymous gift debit card and nobody can afford $1?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "It is not a profit driver"

    Oh, that's for sure.

    Because the only thing this will stop is many potential users signing up to a platform. Making people hand out billing information is a HUUUUUUGE step up from: "click here, enter email, there, done".

    As for "preventing spam and bots" ... lol. Yeah, sure, noooooone whos trying to set up bot networks is willing, let alone able, to spend 1$ per year, that's such a huuuge barrier of entry, oh my...

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: "It is not a profit driver"

      If someone's pays the $8 (or is that $11?) charge for a blue tick on Twitter, it's because of one of three things:

      - They want the algorithm to put them in people's "for you" list.

      - They still don't know the difference between verification and payment.

      - They're a bot.

      So $1 isn't going to change anything, apart from the "for you" list.

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: "It is not a profit driver"

      The $1 probably won't cover the associated costs so this is more of a filter to see who's prepared to pay. Once that's been determined, the price can be increased to the appropriate level of pain.

      Musk understands loss-leading as a way to gain market share but I just hope more people realise that all these services are pretty much interchangeable and switch.

  7. sarusa Silver badge

    PLEAAAAASE give me some money, any money

    It is absolutely worth $1 US for any spammer to be allowed free rein on Twitter.

    Elmo just desperately needs the money.

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: Elmo just desperately needs the money.

      He needs it in order to fund his quest to get elected as Dog Catcher in Sparks, TX. That takes serious mulah.

      Lucky for the USA, he can't become POTUS (or maybe not if Cenk Ughur is right) otherwise, he'd be lining up to become VP to Trump, who will mysteriously have a fall out of a White House Window soon after taking office. Putin will be very pleased.

      [see icon]

      1. DS999 Silver badge

        Re: Elmo just desperately needs the money.

        The way Trump tips forward when he stands (you'll see if you get a shot of him from the side while he's standing still talking without a podium in front of him) I'm surprised he hasn't ever fallen out of a window or off a balcony already without being pushed!

        1. Paul Herber Silver badge

          Re: Elmo just desperately needs the money.

          With the number of goons even an ex-POTUS has around I'm surprised he hasn't fallen in the water.

      2. Bebu Silver badge

        Re: Elmo just desperately needs the money.

        I would think a US VP in the first instance would have to be eligible to be US president. If not I would think an ineligible VP would still be passed over to the next in line - House Speaker (no one at home at the moment :), Senate President pro tem (not the VP.)

        So Elmo being the VP in a revenant Trump administration in some dystopia would be typical Muskian exercise in futility.

      3. veti Silver badge

        Re: Elmo just desperately needs the money.

        I'd vote for Musk, plus a constitutional amendment to allow him to be president, if I thought he'd shove Trump out of a high enough window. Price worth paying.

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: Elmo just desperately needs the money.

          Be careful what you wish for. The reason we have Vladimir Putin in charge in Russia was basically because people had a similar opinion about Boris Yeltsin*. More because they didn't think Yeltsin was going in the right direction rather than being actively dangerous, but I think they, and we, now know that Putin's relative efficiency has ended up being the worse outcome. Whenever the idea is to support one danger because the other one is worse, be very careful that that can't possibly change.

          * Well, Putin was clearly going for power anyway, so even without that he stood a good chance of succeeding, but it probably would have been at least a few years later.

    2. Bebu Silver badge

      Re: PLEAAAAASE give me some money, any money

      《Elmo just desperately needs the money.》

      Brother, can you spare a dime?

      In Elmo's case the next line is a bit suspect:

      They used to tell me I was building a dream

      He ain't.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    thin end of the wedge.

    $1 PA today, tomorrow?

    Self driving car wreck in slow motion

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: thin end of the wedge.

      Enough to get a recurring charge authorisation on a credit card, then later rises will be on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying "Beware of the Leopard".

      1. BartyFartsLast

        Re: thin end of the wedge.

        "Due to rising costs associated with spewing objectionable garbage from extremists we've had take a small increase in our fees butt don't worry, we're still not paying our bills in an attempt to make a profit"

  9. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

    You'll like this...

    "You'll like this... not a lot[bot], but you'll like it"

    No amount of conjuring at this level will make the bots go away.

    Sorry Elon, you are no Paul Daniels

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: You'll like this...

      That's because it's not about the bots. They're just an excuse for some market research.

  10. DS999 Silver badge

    How long

    Before he announces the fee has to be increased because spammers are paying it? Unless you are just shitposting and trolling for giggles, you are spamming because you're making money on it. If you are making less than $1 a year you are obviously spamming wrong.

    Phone verification is laughable. A lot of the big time spammers have banks of phones they use to run automated scripts to do stuff like boosting posts via liking or retweeting, clicking on ads they are subcontracted by affiliates to generate income for them via clickfraud etc. Getting phone numbers isn't an issue for them, they have a lot more of them than you or I do!

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: How long

      I do wonder at what point the supply of available phone numbers will become dangerously polluted. When I got my mobile number, it had previously belonged to somebody else. I don't know what happened to him, but I got a few calls asking for him when it was new but they accepted my statement that he didn't have the number anymore and went away. I've now had this number for many years, though. For anyone who is getting a new phone number now, I have to wonder how many people have used that number in the past and how many databases it is in. I imagine that spammers frequently pick up numbers and drop them when they've become burned, but I doubt that people who have databases are as good at purging that information. What are the odds that a randomly-allocated number will already be listed as a spammer's on at least some site and possibly also receiving messages about some account it was used to verify?

      1. TheFifth

        Re: How long

        I had this with a Virgin Media phone number I was issued. I never use a home phone, so it was only there because the best broadband / TV packages they offered came with a home phone.

        It received a tonne of spam calls. They'd pretend to be Virgin Media and ask to speak to Mr XXXX and when I told them there was no one of that name here, they'd ask what my name was. I told them that if they really were Virgin, they'd know who was register on this number.

        Next the debt collectors started calling. They were really tough to persuade that I was not who they were looking for.

        And finally the police started calling on a semi-regular basis. It was at that point I just unplugged the phone.

        I've moved away from Virgin, so I'd imagine another poor person has that number now and is receiving a barrage of spam, debt collectors and police calls.

        1. IGotOut Silver badge

          Re: How long

          Why would the Police call your landline number?

          My guess:

          Scam Virgin... didn't work.

          Scam Bailiffs : Oh look , more scary.

          Finally Scam Police...who have nothing to do with the two above.

          1. TheFifth

            Re: How long

            Why would the Police call your landline number?

            The Police will call whatever numbers they have registered for a person. A landline is still a pretty common thing to have in the UK and lots of people use it. A loan agreement will specifically ask for both a landline and a mobile number, so if it's a debt collection thing, they will likely be trying all possible numbers they have.

            It was definitely bailiffs as they just left a recorded message for me to call back. I didn't call the number they left in the message, I looked up the company online and called their head office directly, quoting the reference number I was given. It was a large, well known and established debt collection company, so def not a scam.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: How long

          Never used our land line phone. The number was TPS registered and the only calls it ever got were scams and spam. If I'm in the mood I pick up the phone when it rings and wind up the caller. Recently had someone phone saying the lung association had said fibreglass loft insulation was dangerous to health and they were doing a free survey of people's homes with a view to putting in "better" insulation. I'd heard about this scam, you get a high pressure salesman turn up who tries to get you to agree to pay an extortionate amount to have some sort of spray foam in your loft, which devalues the value of your property and makes it difficult to sell. I played along and sent them to a non-existent address. Got a phone call from a somewhat peeved salesman that he couldn't find "my" address.

          While they were wasting time on me, they weren't scamming a more vulnerable person.

          1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

            Re: How long

            they weren't scamming a more vulnerable person

            With the (majority) Indian " your Windows computer is infected" calls I tend to go along for about 5 minutes (making fumbling efforts to "boot up my hard drive") before switching to asking them if their mother and grandmother know that they have a job stealing from old and vulnerable people..

            Most put the phone down. One started screaming at me that I was disrespecting him and that he had a degree in Computer Science and he knew far, far more than me!

            I just laughed at him and put the phone down.

          2. garwhale Bronze badge

            Re: How long

            I have a landline phone number, but not phone installed. No spam calls!

      2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: How long

        When I got my mobile number, it had previously belonged to somebody else

        Mine might have been but I've had it for 25+ years (yes, it came with my first GSM phone and the analogue number I had before that went to my wife).

        We have a fixed policy of not answering the phone if we don't recognise the number. We're also both on the Telephone Preference Service and Mobile Preference Service so, if we do get a spam call on the landline my first statement is "we're on the TPS. Where did you get my number because I'm going to file a complaint"..

        Generally they put the phone down at that point. One tried to argue that, because I'd accessed their website (I hadn't) it made me a customer and thus they could contact me..

  11. hittitezombie

    He's really bad at this

    Why does he have to prove again and again, what a fucking stupid businessman he is?

    1. UCAP Silver badge

      Re: He's really bad at this

      He doesn't have to prove, its just that he's such an egotistical idiot that he does so every time he opens his mouth.

    2. CowHorseFrog Silver badge

      Re: He's really bad at this

      because hs entire wealth was built on social media, and there is no bad news, the only bad news is not beign in the news.

  12. Anonymous Cowherder

    Shame he didn't call it "Knowingly Not Only Bots", would've matched a bit more with the site's owner

    1. Roj Blake Silver badge

      "Counteracting Unauthorised Nasty Tweets"

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    " our already successful efforts to reduce spam, manipulation of our platform and bot activity"

    Not seen much evidence of that, in fact it seems to be more difficult to specifically report spam activity

    1. teknopaul

      By charging $1 to post they have effectively guaranteed that no human will ever post free content for Twitter.

      The only people posting will be marketing bots who expect they can cover the cost.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    our platform ?

    The royal "we" I presume?

  15. Howard Sway Silver badge

    Why do you have to pay to prove it yearly?

    Your dollar and phone number prove that you're not a bot in their view. But why do you need to pay to prove it again a year later? Might some users have cyborged themseleves into spambots during that time?

    Obviously, it's nothing really to do with bots then, it's just a bullshit way of making the whole site subscription only, starting off at at $1 a year, suddenly having to increase to $1 a month for some other spurious excuse, then $10 a month........

  16. Crypto Monad Silver badge

    I don't know if anyone else remembers, but when WhatsApp was a new thing, their business model was to charge $1 / £1 per year. Which I would happily have paid - it was cool, it was cheaper and better than SMS/MMS, and could have made the service sustainable without getting involved in advertising or data harvesting.

    Then it got bought by Facebook.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      re: Then it got bought by Facebook

      And became just another tool for Zuck to Fsck with.

      Avoid at all costs (in FecalFartBook)

  17. CowHorseFrog Silver badge

    Must be a pretty stupid spammer if they cant afford $1 for a new account.

  18. Frank Bitterlich

    "I need a dollar..."

    OK, let's do some translation work here.

    "Within this test, existing users are not affected." -> "You're next."

    "... to bolster our already successful efforts to reduce spam..." -> "We successfully drove most advertisers from the platform, resulting in way less spam."

    "... manipulation of our platform and bot activity..." -> "people making fun of me"

    " while balancing platform accessibility" -> "it works for some, not for everyone. Who cares."

    "It is not a profit driver." -> "It's a pretext to collect more information from our users."

    "And so far, subscription options have proven to be the main solution that works at scale." -> "We have no clue what to do instead."

  19. aerogems Silver badge
    Big Brother


    Is that $1 for a "lifetime" subscription or is that like per month or year? Either way, anyone who thinks Twitler won't turn around and sell that PII to make a quick buck, send me a message. I have some bridges you may be interested in buying.

  20. teknopaul

    In Other News

    New York Times now requires it's staff to "pay to publish".

    Changes were announced to staff

    Reminding them that it is a stackable offence to try to monetize their own content via affiliate links

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: In Other News

      I don't really know what you're going for here. Among other things, if you're serious, you do realize that banning affiliate links in articles is really not the same as "pay to publish", and that the writers are still paid for their articles. I'm also a bit curious about stackable offenses, it kind of sounds like a fun game.

  21. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge

    PHP42.51 ?

    I thought the latest one was 8 or something?

  22. X5-332960073452

    So, the end of "Free Speech" then !!

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    At least 90% of the users won't either.

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