Twitter’s owner, Musk, signals a new “war” against Apple
SAN FRANCISCO: Twitter owner Elon Musk on Monday opened fire on Apple for its tight control over what is allowed in the App Store, saying the iPhone maker had threatened to topple its recently acquired social platform.
Musk has also joined the chorus crying over the erroneous over 30 percent fee Apple collects on transactions through its App Store — the only gateway for apps to access its more than 1 billion mobile devices.
A series of tweets by Musk included an image of a car bearing his first name veering onto a freeway off a cliff labeled “Go to War,” instead of continuing toward “Push 30%.”
The billionaire CEO also tweeted that Apple “threatened to block Twitter from its App Store, but did not tell us why.”
Apple did not immediately respond to an AFP request for comment.
Both Apple and Google require social networking services in their app stores to have effective systems for moderating harmful or offensive content.
But since taking over at Twitter last month, Musk has cut about half of Twitter’s workforce, including several employees tasked with combating disinformation, while an unknown number of employees have resigned voluntarily.
It also reinstated previously banned accounts, including those of former President Donald Trump.
Yoel Roth, Twitter’s former head of trust and safety who left after Musk took over, wrote in a New York Times op-ed that “failing to adhere to Apple and Google’s guidelines would be disastrous” and risk “kicking out of their app stores.”
Calling himself an “absolute freedom of expression,” Musk believes all content permitted by law should be allowed on Twitter, calling his actions Monday “a revolution against internet censorship in America.”
He also tweeted that he intended to publish “Twitter profiles on the suppression of free speech,” but without clarifying what data he was considering sharing with the public.
Although Musk says Twitter is seeing record high engagement with him at the helm, his approach has baffled the company’s top money-makers — advertisers.
In recent weeks, half of the top 100 Twitter advertisers have announced that they have suspended or “apparently stopped advertising on Twitter,” according to an analysis by the nonprofit watchdog group Media Matters.
On Monday, Musk accused Apple of having “mostly stopped advertising on Twitter.”
“Do they hate freedom of speech in America?” he asked, before responding with a tweet tagged by Apple CEO Tim Cook.
In the first three months of 2022, Apple was the number one advertiser on Twitter, spending about $48 million on ads that made up more than 4 percent of the social media platform’s revenue, according to a Washington Post report citing an internal Twitter document.
“Musk didn’t understand that Twitter itself was a brand, and it was special,” Sarah Roberts, an information studies expert at the University of California, Los Angeles, told AFP.
She added, “Now companies don’t even want to be associated with it. And it’s not even about the content. Twitter is a tainted brand, an undesirable brand that companies don’t want to be associated with.”
On Monday, Musk also called Apple’s fee for transactions through the App Store a “30% secret tax.”
He shared a video released last year by Fortnite specialist Epic Games that portrayed Apple as being downtrodden in a parody of a popular “1984” ad for Macintosh computers.
Apple has battled in court with Epic, which has sought to break Apple’s hold on the App Store, accusing the iPhone maker of operating a monopoly in its store for digital goods or services.
A federal judge last year ordered Apple to remove control of the App Store’s payment options, but said Epic had failed to prove antitrust violations.
Musk’s controversial Twitter moves, along with the possibility that he’ll need to sell more Tesla shares to keep the social media platform afloat, have caused the electric car company and its stock to shine, according to Wedbush analyst Dan Ives.
“The new Musk vs Apple fight is not what investors want to see,” Ives said in a tweet.
“(Wall Street) wants less drama, not more because this Twitter situation remains the gift that keeps on giving Tesla bears with each new chapter day.”