Elon Musk claimed on Monday that Apple “threatened” to pull Twitter from its iOS app store, a move that could prove devastating to the company Musk had just acquired for $44 billion.
“Apple (AAPL) has also threatened to keep Twitter out of its App Store, but won’t tell us why,” Musk said in one of several tweets he directed Monday at Apple (AAPL) and its CEO over alleged moves the company is taking. could undermine Twitter’s position. company.
In another tweet, Musk claimed that Apple has largely stopped advertising on Twitter. “Do they hate free speech in America,” he said, apparently referring to his oft-stated desire to cement his idea of free speech on the platform. “What is going on here [Apple CEO Tim Cook]?” Musk added in a follow-up tweet. He too criticized apple’s size, claimed it deals with “censorship”, and called out the 30% transaction fee that Apple charges major app developers to be listed on the app store.
The tweet storm highlights the tenuous relationship between Musk and Apple, which, along with Google, act as the primary gatekeepers for mobile applications. Long before he took over Twitter, Tesla’s CEO said that when the auto company was struggling, he considered selling the company to Apple, but that Cook declined to meet with him.
Removal from Apple’s app store, or Google’s, would harm Twitter’s business, which is already struggling with a loss of advertisers following the Musk acquisition and a struggling first attempt to expand its subscription business.
Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Musk’s tweets. The company has previously shown it’s willing to remove apps from the app store over concerns about their ability to moderate malicious content or if they try to circumvent Apple’s discount on in-app purchases and subscriptions.
In January 2021, Apple removed Parler, an app popular with conservatives, including some far-right members, from the app store following the attack on the Capitol over concerns about the platform’s ability to detect and moderate hate speech and incitement. Parler was returned to Apple’s app store three months later after updating content moderation procedures.
In its official app store rating guidelines, Apple lists several safety parameters that apps must meet in order to be listed in the store, including the ability to prevent “offensive, insensitive, disturbing, disgusting content of exceptionally bad taste”, or simply downright creepy,” such as hate speech, pornography, and terrorism. “If you want to shock and offend people, the App Store is not the right place for your app,” the guidelines read.
Several civil society groups, researchers and other industry observers have raised concerns about Twitter’s ability to effectively moderate harmful content and maintain the safety of the platform following widespread layoffs and mass departures of employees from the company. Musk has also claimed he wants to strengthen “free speech” on the platform and has begun reinstating some accounts that were previously banned or suspended for repeatedly violating Twitter’s rules. Musk himself has shared a conspiracy theory and several other controversial tweets since becoming the owner of Twitter.
Long a prolific and hostile tweeter, Musk hasn’t let up since taking over the company. And what it may have lost in revenue, he says, it has made up for in engagement. Part of the strategy seems to be relentlessly targeting enemies, either his personally or “free speech”.
In an interview with CBS earlier this month, Cook was asked if there are any ways Twitter could change that would cause Apple to remove it from the app store. “They say they will continue to moderate and so… I am counting on them to,” Cook replied. “Because I don’t think anyone really wants hate speech on their platform. So I expect them to continue to do so.”
In an op-ed published last week in the New York Times, Yoel Roth, Twitter’s former head of trust and security, who left the company earlier this month, suggested that Twitter had already started receiving calls from app store- operators after the Musk acquisition. Roth said the company’s failure to comply with Google and Apple’s app store rules could be “catastrophic.”
And last weekend, the head of Apple’s app store, Phil Schiller, deleted his Twitter account.
While the state of the relationship between Apple and Twitter is unclear, the iPhone maker ran Black Friday ads on the platform last Thursday, according to reports viewed by CNN.
Many companies have scaled back their digital ad spending in recent months as the economy took a turn for the worse, and Twitter has probably always been a small part of Apple’s advertising budget. However, Apple’s impact on Twitter could be much greater, even if Musk manages to shift its core business to a greater reliance on subscription revenue and may have to pay a 30% cut to Apple.
In a tweet Monday, Musk asked his nearly 120 million followers if they know that “Apple secretly charges a 30% tax on everything you buy through their App Store?” In another tweet, he posted a photo of a highway exit: one lane pointed toward “pay 30%,” the other pointed toward “warning.” An old car marked “Elon” slid toward the last.