Twitter, as it was once known, has been the center of a media storm over the past year.
The iconic micro-blogging site has undergone significant changes, and it looks set to
continue its transformation for better or for worse.
Despite always being a free service, users in New Zealand are now expected to stump
up $1 a year if they want to use the platform. This is unthinkable in the world of social
media, where free use is a founding principle. What is behind this shock move and what
does it mean for the future? Read on to find out.
Enter Elon Musk
In October 2022, tech mogul and owner of SpaceX and Tesla Elon Musk completed a
purchase takeover of Twitter. The deal had been the subject of extensive media coverage
for a number of months and, after initially attempting to back out, Musk was
taken to court and ordered to complete the move.
Musk paid an astonishing $44 billion for Twitter, a fee many considered wildly over the
platform’s true value. However, Musk remained bullish and maintained he would
transform Twitter into his own free-speech paradise, a mission statement that caused
more concerns than it quelled.
Almost immediately, the culture and atmosphere on Twitter changed. Hate speech
skyrocketed, and accounts previously banned for offensive or violent posts were quickly
reinstated. Mass layoffs at the company ensued, purportedly to stem Twitter’s
hemorrhaging profit margins.
In July 2023, Musk did the unthinkable. He changed Twitter’s name to X and replaced
the legendary blue bird logo. This came after he introduced a paid subscription service
and was for many the culmination of a systematic dismantling of a much-loved social
What’s Happening in New Zealand?
Since the early days of Facebook, social media platforms have been free to use. While
some may offer premium services, they are by and large free services, an attribute that
accounts for their incredible popularity.
In September, Elon Musk suggested that he was considering the introduction of a fee to
use X. His reasoning was that the platform had a serious problem with bots and fake
accounts, and that a small fee would help address this issue.
Unsurprisingly, his proposal was met with significant backlash. Critics maintained a fee
to use X would stand against everything social media platforms are about and would
damage the credibility and accessibility of the platform.
Few thought Musk would actually go through with the idea. However, in October he
proved the doubters wrong, confirming that new users in New Zealand will have to pay
an annual fee of $1 to use X.
Users in New Zealand will still be able to read posts without paying. For example, they
could head to X to look for tips to help them choose the right casino in NZ, what the top
movies of the year are or finding a neat bolthole hotel. However, they will be unable to
like, comment, repost or bookmark anything if they do not pay the $1 charge.
According to X, the fee will help them counter fraudulent activity and spam, although the
company’s money woes have also likely been a factor in the decision.
What Does This Mean for the Future of X?
X’s financial difficulties have been well documented. When Musk took over, he reported
serious issues and maintained his primary role was to make the company profitable
However, a rise in hate speech on the platform spooked advertisers, who began leaving
X in droves. This certainly didn’t help the company’s finances, and Musk was quick to
bemoan the brands that had left the platform.
While addressing hate speech on X would work to bring back advertisers, Musk has
made no indication that he intends to do so. In fact, he has moved in the opposite
direction, fuelling conspiracy theories and fake news in his quest for ‘free speech’ at all
This has made X a more hostile place, but also means the company must look for other
avenues to generate funds. With major advertisers unlikely to return for the foreseeable
future, charging users for services is one of the only options left open for the company.
The introduction of a $1 annual fee in New Zealand is likely just the beginning. We
could well see the charge rolled out across the world in the near future. This could
backfire; users may be driven away to rival platforms that offer services completely free
of charge. On the other hand, X’s enduring brand recognition could see users stay put,
content to stump the relatively small $1 fee to continue using a platform they are familiar
Elon Musk has made sweeping changes at Twitter, not least changing the name and
logo to X. The introduction of an annual fee to use the platform has been his most
contentious decision yet and has the potential to change the face of the social media
landscape as we know it.