By now, it is evident that nobody is safe from Elon Musk and his tweets. Everyone is fair game. The billionaire Chief Twit is polishing his bullhorns and setting his sights on the Big Tech cabal, Washington’s Swamp creatures, and the stenographers of the Fourth Estate – the Red Guard Cartel – without a care for the consequences. But Musk has a new feud that could elicit the wrath of one of the world’s largest companies and potentially accelerate censorship actions in the online ecosystem. The culprit? A $2.26 trillion titan that goes by the name of a fruit: Apple. Is Musk biting off more than he can chew?
Elon Musk Bites the Big Apple
In a series of tweets on Nov. 28, Musk revealed that Apple had mostly halted its advertising efforts on Twitter, asking if the behemoth “hate[s] free speech in America.” In a follow-up tweet, he tagged CEO Tim Cook, inquiring “what’s going on here?” The newest owner of the social media platform also claimed that Apple has “threatened to withhold Twitter from its App Store” but has refused to explain why.
He polled his more than 116 million followers, asking them if they think “Apple should publish all censorship actions” that have impacted its customers. The survey received about 2.2 million votes, with 85% voting “Yes.”
Musk retweeted comments from the popular Twitter account Watcher.Guru, which noted that the iPhone-maker applies a 30% levy on app developers who earn more than $1 million through the App Store. “Apple’s App Store is the equivalent to a 30% tax on the Internet,” the post announced. This captured the attention of Musk, who shared the information with his audience. “This is a battle for the future of civilization. If free speech is lost even in America, tyranny is all that lies ahead,” Musk later said.
An Apple for Your Thoughts?
If the allegations are true, the actions would not be without precedent. Apple had cracked down on third-party apps in its web store, enforcing its rules on popular right-leaning social networks, including Gab and Parler. Twitter could face tighter scrutiny for two reasons. First, according to App Store guidelines, Apple mandates apps with user-generated content to impose robust content-moderation systems. Since taking over the website, Musk has scaled back its content-moderation team and has overhauled its objectives. Second, Apple forces apps to pay between 15% and 30% for digital purchases. When developers tried to avoid this immense fee, Apple kicked them out of the store, so that could be Twitter’s fate if Musk attempts to emulate this strategy.
Moreover, data from advertising measurement firm Pathmatics show that Apple had reduced its ad spending on Twitter by 41% month-over-month in November, joining the growing list of US companies minimizing their presence on the platform. Ads represent about 90% of the website’s revenues, although Musk has stated that user growth and engagement have been rising.
Apple has not issued a statement on Musk’s assertions. However, media reports from CNBC and other business news publications suggest that the app review department is monitoring Twitter to determine if it is violating any of the App Store’s policies. Apple leans on employees to comb through every app and update to ensure conformity to its terms and conditions.
While Apple has yet to confirm if it is homing in on Twitter, the White House told reporters on Nov. 28 that officials will be keeping a “close eye” on the website. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis also weighed in on the possibility of Apple removing Twitter from the App Store, telling reporters that it would warrant congressional action. “That would be a huge, huge mistake, and it would be a really raw exercise of monopolistic power that I think would merit a response from the United States Congress,” he stated.
Elon Phone Is the Answer?
What happens if Apple goes to war with Twitter? Well, this would be a decision the company might regret since the “free speech absolutist” has succeeded in every major venture he has pursued. The Tesla and SpaceX CEO tweeted that he might develop his own smartphone if Apple or Google decided to eradicate Twitter from their app locations. “I certainly hope it does not come to that, but, yes, if there is no other choice, I will make an alternative phone,” he said. Would millions of Americans ditch their Androids and iPhones if an Elon Phone were released? In today’s environment, anything can happen.
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