May 28, 2024

Elon Musk earlier this month said X/Twitter is “moving to having a small monthly payment for use of the X system” — a step that is necessary, he said, to thwart the plague of bots flooding the platform.

Is the company in fact going to implement such a fee? Linda Yaccarino, the CEO of the Musk-owned social network, dodged the question when it was posed to her on stage at Vox Media’s Code 2023 conference Wednesday by interviewer Julia Boorstin, CNBC senior media and tech correspondent.

“Elon Musk just announced a new monthly fee for users,” Boorstin said. “And my question for you is, Do you want to start charging all users of X, as he said, and how many users do you think you will lose as a result?”

After a pause, Yaccarino said, “Could you repeat?” Boorstin responded, “Elon Musk announced you’re moving to an entirely subscription-based service. Nothing free about using X.” Yaccarino said, “Did he say we were moving to it specifically, or he’s thinking about it?” Boorstin: “He said that’s the plan. So did he consult you before he announced that?”

“We talk about everything,” Yaccarino replied, but did not answer the question about when X/Twitter might institute a monthly subscription fee for all users of the platform. She said Musk hired her not only because she is an experienced ad-sales exec but more broadly because of her background as “a very senior executive.”

Musk’s comments about charging X/Twitter users came during a discussion on AI that included Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Musk said the monthly fee might be “a few dollars or something,” which he said would be sufficient to deter the creation of bot accounts. According to Musk, X has 550 million monthly active users, who share 100 million-200 million posts daily on the social network.

During her appearance at the Code conference, Yaccarino defended Musk — asking the crowd rhetorically, “Who wouldn’t want Elon Musk sitting by their side running product?” — and said she expects X/Twitter to turn a profit in 2024. Yaccarino started the CEO job in June, after most recently serving as NBCUniversal’s top ad sales exec.

Also speaking at the Code conference Wednesday was Yoel Roth, formerly Twitter’s head of safety and integrity, who exited last November after Musk’s takeover — and said he has been the target of harassment and death threats after Musk attacked him on Twitter. (According to Roth’s recent op-end in the New York Times, Musk posted a tweet that took “a paragraph of my Ph.D. dissertation out of context to baselessly claim that I condoned pedophilia — a conspiracy trope commonly used by far-right extremists and QAnon adherents to smear LGBTQ people”).

When Boorstin asked Yaccarino about Roth’s comments, Yaccarino responded that she does not know Roth and that the company is not the same place it was when Roth worked there. “I work at X, he worked at Twitter,” Yaccarino said, per the Verge. “It’s a new day at X. And I’ll leave it at that.”

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