Monday’s assault against the cornerstone of Elon Musk’s Apple Inc. and iPhone business empire has set the stage for a potentially fierce battle between the world’s richest man and the world’s most valuable company.
Twitter Inc. is owned by Apple and its chief executive officer, Tim Cook. The iPhone maker is a major advertiser and tightly controls the software on its App Store.
In a string of tweets accusing Apple of stifling free speech and claiming the tech giant had threatened to remove the Twitter app from the iPhone, Mr Musk criticized Apple’s efforts to retain control over software distribution criticized. Starring as Megaphone introduced a new wrinkle. Critics say the company wields too much power through its App Store.
By calling attention to Apple’s role as the gatekeeper of the app ecosystem, Mr Musk is taking up the mantle in the years-long battle developers have waged against Apple and its fees. Mr Musk could bring new attention to the company from lawmakers and regulators around the world, including politicians who have expressed concern that Silicon Valley is silencing conservative voices.
Mr Musk has said he is losing $4 million a day and the social-media company is facing an advertiser revolt by big brands concerned over content moderation and uncertainty over executive departures. He is trying to strengthen Twitter’s subscription business by relying less on advertising. A new Twitter Blue, designed to offer users benefits such as identity verification for a monthly fee, Mr Musk has tentatively promised it will launch on Friday.
Mr Musk has said that Apple stands to derive more than 30% of its revenue from Twitter subscriptions, which looks set to become a new focal point for the company. The company charges up to 30% of app purchases or subscriptions placed through the App Store. Apple’s membership cut drops to 15% after the first year of use.
On Monday, Mr Musk sent a meme to his nearly 120 million followers that showed a car speeding towards an off-ramp with the words “Go to war”. A car labeled Pay 30% pulls up the road representing Mr Musk.
Mr Musk, who has become the world’s richest man with his stakes in Tesla Inc and rocket company SpaceX, has a long history of defying and publicly fighting those he sees as his interests and ideas. sees let’s watch. Let’s agree. Consider a threat. He has targeted not only rivals but the likes of President Biden and the Securities and Exchange Commission.
That fight could fall apart as Apple under Cook has removed apps from the Store over content-moderation concerns and blocked some social media data-collection practices in the name of user privacy. The dispute could draw new attention to how speech on the Internet is monitored and what software is allowed to reach more than 1 billion iPhone users as arbiters of Apple’s power.
In Apple’s App Store review guidelines, one of the company’s early warnings is that apps “must not contain content that is offensive, insensitive, harassing, intended to incite hatred, or is in exceptionally bad taste”.
It looks like Elon wants to pick a fight with Apple,” said Philip Shoemaker, former senior director of the App Store review team at Apple, who left in 2016.
When he inspected the contents of the App Store Mr Shoemaker said Apple would tell app developers what they were infringing before threatening to remove the apps. Typically, he said, software makers were given two weeks to fix an issue such as content moderation before rejecting an app update and eventually pulling it from digital stores.
Questions from experts about Twitter’s ability to moderate content on the platform began to surface as Mr Musk fired nearly half of the company’s staff and prompted many more to quit.
When Elon comes out and fires the entire moderation team, I first said Twitter was going to be out of the App Store, Mr. Shoemaker said. Mr Musk has said he was motivated to buy Twitter to ensure it remained a platform for free speech, and also said he would comply with local laws relating to content. Mr Musk last month completed his acquisition of the social-media company in a deal worth $44 billion.
Several outside groups, including the Anti-Defamation League and the Network Contagion Research Institute, said they’ve seen a sudden increase in hate speech on the platform since it completed its acquisition about a month ago.
The ADL, a Jewish advocacy group that investigates anti-Semitism in the US, said it had identified more than 1,200 tweets and retweets spreading anti-Semitic memes and called it a coordinated effort by Mr Musk after the acquisition.