Friday, 3 Feb 2023

Apple threatens to boot Twitter from App Store

Elon Musk accused Apple of threatening to block Twitter from its app store without saying why in a series of tweets on Monday.

He also said the iPhone maker had stopped advertising on the social media platform.

The billionaire 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 enforced its rules and previously removed apps such as Gab and Parler.

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

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

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

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

Among the list of grievances tweeted by Musk was the up to 30% 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 from General Mills to luxury automaker Audi of America 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% of Twitter’s revenue.

The self-described free speech absolutist, whose company has in the past few days reinstated several Twitter accounts including that of former US President Donald Trump, has blamed activist groups for pressuring advertisers.

‘As fears mount over Musk’s intentions to transform Twitter and its content moderation processes, his most recent feud has turned out to be with Apple,’ said Paul Stone, senior counsel at Charles Russell Speechlys.

Stone pointed out that the UK Competition Authority has an ongoing investigation into how Apple operates its app store, and therefore Musk’s complaints may have damning implications for Apple and the investigation.

If Apple does decide to remove Twitter from the App Store, Musk has said he would create his own smartphone.

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