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X to go behind paywall?

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Elon Musk has suggested that all users of X, formerly called Twitter, may have to pay for access to the platform.

In a conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the billionaire said a payment system was the only way to counter bots.

“We’re moving to having a small monthly payment for use of the system,” the Tesla and SpaceX boss said.

The BBC approached X for further details but has not yet received a statement from the company.

It is unclear whether this was just an off-the-cuff comment, or a signal of firmer plans that have yet to be announced.

Mr Musk has long said that his solution for getting rid of bots and fake accounts on the social media platform is charging for verification.

Since taking over Twitter last year he has looked to incentivise users to pay for an enhanced service, which is now called X Premium.

This has been done by giving paid subscribers more features, like longer posts and increased visibility on the platform.

However, users can currently still use X for free.

Although there is a clear financial interest for the company to charge users, Mr Musk insisted that getting people to pay for the service is aimed at tackling bots.

“A bot costs a fraction of a penny” to make he said. “But if somebody even has to pay a few dollars or something, some minor amount, the effective cost to bots is very high”.

X Premium currently costs $8 (£6.50) a month in the US. The price differs depending on which country a subscriber is in.

The world’s richest person said that he was now looking at cheaper options for users.

“We’re actually going to come up with a lower tier pricing. So we just want it to be just a small amount of money,” he said.

“This is a longer discussion, but in my view, this is actually the only defence against vast armies of bots,” Mr Musk added.

However, a risk is that by putting X behind a paywall it may lose a large chunk of its users. That in turn, could drive down advertising revenue, which currently accounts for the vast majority of the company’s income.

Mr Musk’s conversation with the Israeli prime minister also touched on antisemitism on X.

The platform has been accused by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) campaign group of not doing enough to stop antisemitic content.

In a statement, the organisation said that Mr Musk was “engaging with and elevating” antisemites.

Earlier this month, he said that the company would sue the ADL to “clear our platform’s name”.

In the conversation with Mr Netanyahu, Mr Musk reiterated that he was “against antisemitism”.

Mr Netanyahu accepted the balance between free speech and content moderation was a challenge but urged Mr Musk to get the balance right.

“I hope you find within the confines of the First Amendment, the ability to stop not only antisemitism… but any collective hatred of people that antisemitism represents,” he said.

“I know you’re committed to that”, Mr Netanyahu added.

(BBC News)

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Vehicle import ban extended until next year

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The government has postponed the lifting of the ban on private vehicle imports until the beginning of next year.

A decision has been made to put off lifting the ban because the country’s economy has not stabilised enough and foreign reserves are not at a sufficient level to facilitate such imports, a senior Treasury official told the Sunday Times. He said the import of private vehicles will result in an annual foreign exchange outflow of about USD 1 billion.

However, the import of commercial vehicles such as lorries, buses and trucks, as well as vans used in the tourism sector, can start next month, the official added. Vehicles used for government ministries and other agencies too will only be imported from the beginning of next year when the ban is lifted on private vehicle imports.

The government had earlier planned to allow the import of electric vehicles and private cars by the end of this year. This has also now been postponed until next year.

Motorbikes and three-wheelers make up the largest number of private vehicle imports. The import of these vehicles will have to be postponed until at least May or June next year due to the economy still not having recovered enough, the official revealed.

Small cars with engine capacities ranging from 600 cc to 800 cc are usually imported in bulk. Therefore, the government will allow only a certain quota of such vehicles to be imported. Only authorised local agents of the parent companies will be allowed to import such vehicles initially.

When allowing the import of vehicles from the start of next year, the government will also give priority to companies that locally assemble the vehicles from imported parts, the Treasury source said.

Meanwhile, about 10,000 vehicle permits issued to doctors and senior government officers are still pending. The official said they would only be able to consider allowing these vehicle imports next year, but that their vehicles too would not be allowed to be imported in bulk. The decision on these imports will depend on the state of the economy.

Traders will not be able to import vehicles in bulk and will only be allowed to import a limited number of vehicles. Only reconditioned vehicles that are two years old or less will be imported. Their engine capacities, too, will depend on what the government considers can be imported without harming the still fragile economy.

If the vehicle imports prove too much of a burden on the country’s economy and lead to serious strain on the US dollar and the country’s foreign reserves, the Treasury will not hesitate to re-impose restrictions, the official added.

(sundaytimes.lk)

(Except for the headline, this story, originally published by sundaytimes.lk has not been edited by SLM staff)

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Consumer Commission orders Thomas Cook and Red Apple Travel to pay Rs 1 crore

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The Delhi Consumer Commission directed travel companies Thomas Cook and Red Apple Travel to pay Rs 1 crore as compensation to Yogesh Saigal for the death of his family members in a road accident during a vacation in Sri Lanka.

Considering the mental and physical trauma faced due to the loss of his family caused by the negligence of the two travel companies, the Delhi State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission sided with Saigal in an order dated July 1. The loss of livelihood and future prospects of Saigal’s wife were also taken into account.

Saigal, along with his wife, son, daughter, and father-in-law, had booked a vacation package to Sri Lanka through Thomas Cook in November 2019 for Rs 3.56 lakh. This package included accommodations, sightseeing, transportation, and travel insurance.

On December 23, 2019, the vehicle carrying Saigal’s family collided with a container truck in Colombo, resulting in the immediate deaths of his wife, son, and father-in-law. Saigal himself sustained severe injuries, including multiple fractures, and his daughter, Aishwarya, also suffered physical trauma.

The complainant further alleged that a few hours before the commencement of their journey, he was informed that the arrangements in Sri Lanka would be managed by Red Apple Travel, a fact that was not disclosed to him during the booking process.

Saigal further alleged that the involvement of Red Apple Travel was only revealed 36 hours prior to the journey, leaving the family with no option but to proceed or risk forfeiting the entire amount paid.

The aftermath of the accident led to Saigal issuing a legal notice to Thomas Cook on February 24, 2021, seeking Rs. 8.99 crore in damages for negligence, deficiency in services, unfair trade practices, and misleading advertisements. In his complaint, Saigal argued that Thomas Cook had failed in its duty of care by not ensuring safe and reliable contractors for the tour.

(Indian Express)
(Except for the headline, this story, originally published by Indian Express has not been edited by SLM staff)

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SriLankan Airlines online booking services, restored

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SriLankan Airlines has announced in a statement that its internet booking services have been fully restored as of 08:30 GMT (14:00 local time in Sri Lanka), following a global outage of third-party service providers that affected the airline’s online booking services. 

Apologizing to any inconvenience caused, the airline urges customers to contact their Global Contact Centre at +94 19733 1979 for any further assistance with existing or new bookings.

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