Musk: Apple threatened to remove Twitter from App Store

Photo: Muhammed Selim Korkutata / Anadolu Agency

In a series of tweets on Monday, Elon Musk accused Apple Inc of threatening to block Twitter Inc from its app store and also said the iPhone maker had stopped advertising on the social media platform.

The CEO of Twitter and Tesla said Apple was pressuring Twitter over content moderation demands.

The action, unconfirmed by Apple, would not be unusual as the company has routinely been uncooperative with apps which they appear to disagree with ideologically , having removed right wing apps such as Gab and Parler.

Parler, which is popular with U.S. conservatives, was restored by Apple in 2021 after the app updated its content and moderation practices, the companies said at the time.

“Apple has mostly stopped advertising on Twitter. Do they hate free speech in America?,” Musk, who took Twitter private for USD 44 billion last month, said in a tweet.

He later tagged Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook's Twitter account in another tweet, asking “what's going on here?”

Apple did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Whilst Apple remains silent on the board member Phil Schiller, responsible for the App Store deactivated his Twitter account last week.

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“It wasn't clear to me how far up the Apple food chain that idea went internally and without knowing that, it isn't clear how seriously to take any of this,” said Randal Picker, a professor at the University of Chicago Law School.

The world's most valuable firm spent an estimated USD 131,600 on Twitter ads between November 10 and 16, down from USD 220,800 between October 16 and 22, the week before Musk closed the Twitter deal, according to advertising measurement firm Pathmatics.

In the first quarter of 2022, Apple was the top advertiser on Twitter, spending USD 48 million and accounting for more than 4 percent of total revenue for the period, the Washington Post reported, citing an internal Twitter document.

Elon Musk has proposed various changes to Twitter which have upset a variety of institutions from big tech firms to NGO’s and Democrat politicians, such as a general amnesty for previously suspended accounts and a strong commitment to free speech.

Musk has also stated that the removal of child exploitation material from Twitter was “Priority #1” with many reports illustrating that it was rife on the social media site prior to Musk’s arrival.

“Go to war”

Among the list of grievances tweeted by Musk was the up to 30 percent fee Apple charges software developers for in-app purchases, with Musk posting a meme suggesting he was willing to “go to war” with Apple rather than paying the commission.

The fee has drawn criticism and lawsuits from companies such as Epic Games, the maker of 'Fortnite', while attracting the scrutiny of regulators globally.

The commission could weigh on Musk's attempts to boost subscription revenue at Twitter, in part to make up for the exodus of advertisers over content moderation concerns.

Companies such as Pfizer, Kellogg, Verizon, General Mills, Musk’s Tesla competitor Volkswagen, General Motors have stopped or paused advertising on Twitter since the acquisition, and Musk said earlier this month that the company had seen a “massive” drop in revenue.

Ad sales account for about 90 percent of Twitter's revenue.