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X subscription fee could broaden digital divide in Global South

Media Contact

Becka Bowyer

Elon Musk's social media site X will start charging new users in New Zealand and the Philippines to use the platform. Musk claims the $1 yearly fee will fight bots.

Aditya Vashistha

Assistant Professor of Information Science

Aditya Vashistha, assistant professor of information science at Cornell University, studies computing systems with a focus on the Global South. He says X’s payment change could broaden the digital divide for users.

Vashistha says:

“The choice of New Zealand and the Philippines to roll out this program stands out as odd to me. Why these two countries and why not start this in the U.S. – the country that has the headquarters of X?

“Do we have any evidence that spammers and bots would not pay $1 to get access to post on X? In fact, creating a monetary wall would exclude genuine users and invite concerted efforts to propagate hate speech, political propaganda and disinformation. The same thing happened with the changed policy for who gets to acquire a blue tick.

“Another odd thing is the choice of $1. Given the differences in the cost of living in the Philippines and New Zealand, the ability to afford $1 is not the same in the two countries. Even if the rationale behind creating a paywall is right, such policies would broaden the digital divide, making it difficult for people in the Philippines to be part of a global community on X compared to those in New Zealand.”

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