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Elon Musk picks a fight with tech giant Apple

  • 29 Nov 2022

In a flurry of tweets, Twitter's new owner has claimed Apple is threatening to remove the social platform from its App Store and defended his policy vision as a safeguard for free speech.

Musk also took to Twitter to criticise Apple's 30 percent tax fee on developers and said that the company has reduced advertisement on the social media platform. ( Reuters )

Twitter’s new owner Elon Musk has picked a fight with Apple, claiming that the tech company does not want to support free speech and is threatening to “withhold” Twitter from its App Store.

Without citing any evidence, Musk made the claim on Monday in a series of tweets in which he also said that Apple has "mostly stopped advertising" on the social platform and criticised the company’s tax rules.

The Tesla owner referred to Apple’s content moderation policies as censorship and an attack on free speech. This caused users to speculate that Musk may be struggling to clear Apple’s standards of content moderation following his threats to policy changes, deep cuts to moderation teams and reinstating of accounts that were banned for hate speech, misinformation and harassment.

Musk has regularly defended his policy vision as a safeguard for free speech.  

However, in its content moderation rules, Apple requires apps to remove content that is “offensive, insensitive, upsetting, intended to disgust, in exceptionally poor taste, or just plain creepy.” The tech company goes on to list detailed examples of such content.

Apple last year removed Parler – a Twitter alternative – from its App Store for failing to comply with its content moderation standards following the US Capitol building riots. The app was restored in May 2021 after Parler updated its content and moderation practices.

Similar claims are made by Lbry, which said Apple asked the company to "filter some search terms".

Still, it remains unclear whether Apple has threatened to withhold Twitter from its App Store.

In regards to Musk's claims on Apple's reduced advertisement on the platform, Reuters points out that Apple spent an estimated $131,600 on Twitter ads between November 10 to 16, down from $220,800 between October 16 to 22, the week before Musk closed the Twitter deal. The report adds that Apple was the top advertiser on Twitter in the first quarter of 2022.

While Musk railed against Apple’s alleged censorship, he also criticised the company’s 30 percent tax on developers who sell their apps through the company’s App Store. He called the fee a “secret 30% tax”.

However, Steve Jobs announced the 30 percent app tax when he introduced the App Store to a worldwide audience in 2008.

A federal judge last year ordered Apple to loosen control of its App Store payment options after video game company Epic Games accused the iPhone maker of operating a monopoly in its shop for digital goods or services.

However, it was ruled that Epic failed to prove that antitrust violations had taken place.

Musk’s continued controversial management of Twitter could see more companies distance themselves from the platform.

Sarah Roberts, an information studies expert at University of California, Los Angeles, told AFP that "Musk didn't understand that Twitter itself was a brand, had cachet."

"Now companies don't even want to be associated with it. It's not even that they worry about the content. Twitter is a tainted brand, a brand non grata companies don't want to be associated with," she added.

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