Elon Musk Is Going to Make People Pay $8 If They Want to Call Him

Elon Musk is still trying to make X audio and video calls happen, even though, like the infamous “fetch,” we all know it’s not going to happen. His latest tactic: Giving up his phone number and using X exclusively for calls and texts.

“In a few months, I will discontinue my phone number and only use X for texts and audio/video calls,” the billionaire said on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, in an early morning tweet on Friday.

If Musk goes through with the idea—it’s entirely likely this is all just talk—he will essentially be forcing people to pay at least $8 a month, the price of an X Premium subscription, to call him. While all users can receive audio and video calls on X, only Premium subscribers have the ability to make calls. By default, only mutuals can call each other on the platform. To call someone who isn’t following you, they have to have sent you a direct message at least once before. X enabled audio and video calls on the platform last October.

In addition, giving up his phone number and relying only on X is not even entirely possible at the moment due to security limitations. Independent app researcher Nima Owji told Gizmodo via direct messages that SMS confirmation codes, such as the ones used for two-factor authentication, during the login process are still a big part of our online life. Platforms like WhatsApp also use confirmation codes through SMS when people want to create an account.

Even X sends SMS confirmation codes to users to authenticate their identity, though the platform only offers this option to Premium subscribers. Free users on X can use authentication apps or security keys as their two-factor authentication method, which experts state are more secure than SMS confirmation anyway, given that hackers can use methods like SIM swapping to steal your phone number.

However, just because experts warn against using SMS as a two-factor authentication method doesn’t mean everyone listens to them. Many banks and other services still only offer two-factor authentication through SMS.

“X can be used to make phone/video calls, but I think SMS is still an essential part of communication,” Owji said.

The U.S. government would agree. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, uses SMS to send people alerts about emergency weather conditions, AMBER alerts, and presidential alerts during national emergencies. Owji doesn’t think that governments will transfer their alert notifications from SMS to X, at least right now, as doing so would mean they would have to start supporting other messengers, too.

Update 2/9/2024, 10:12 a.m. ET: This post has been with additional information on who can receive audio and video calls on X.

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