Musk says Apple is threatening to remove Twitter from the App Store

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Elon Musk shed a tear at Apple, Twitter’s top advertiser, on Monday after he said the company threatened to block the social network from its App Store without explanation and mostly stopped advertising on Twitter.

The tirade underscored the immense power that Apple, the world’s most valuable company, is betting on the fate of the world’s richest man on Twitter. The rant also flagged the role Apple could play in countering Musk’s chaotic reign over the social network; Apple previously revoked App Store privileges from companies that violated its security policies or harbored violence and other problematic content.

If the company were to block Twitter from its App Store, new users would not be able to download the Twitter app to their iPhones and iPads, and existing users would not be able to access updates. The alleged threat comes on top of pressure from advertisers, staff departures and regulatory scrutiny Musk faces as he seeks to overhaul years of Twitter policies and account suspensions in its quest to promote a “free speech” agenda.

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In the first quarter, Apple was the top advertiser on Twitter, spending $48 million on ads on the social network, according to a document reviewed by The Washington Post that was compiled from internal Twitter data. Apple’s spending accounted for more than 4% of Twitter’s revenue this quarter.

Musk has sought to pressure the company and CEO Tim Cook in a series of tweets for suspending such spending, a pause that comes amid the holiday shopping season.

Apple did not respond to requests for comment.

In the series of tweets, Musk sought to stoke longstanding concerns and political scrutiny of Apple’s market power. He tweeted a link to a parody video that Apple nemesis Epic Games made in 2020, criticizing the App Store as a “monopoly”. The video is a parody of Apple’s famous “1984” Super Bowl Advertisingthat Epic, the creator of the Fortnite video game, published after being kicked out of the Apple store for breaking its in-app payments rules. He also tweeted out a yes-or-no poll, asking his more than 119 million followers whether Apple should “release any censorship actions it has taken that affect its customers.”

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“Did you know that Apple imposes a secret 30% tax on everything you buy through its App Store? ,” Musk tweeted, with the caption “Spoiler alert.”

Musk signaled in a meme that he intends to “wage war” on Apple.

The tweets immediately caught the attention of lawmakers in Washington, who proposed bipartisan legislation to dismantle the power that Apple and Google wield through their app stores.

“This is why we need to end the App Store duopoly before the end of this year,” tweeted Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), who co-led efforts to pass antitrust legislation targeting large corporations. technology companies. “Nobody should have that kind of market power.”

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App stores may move faster than regulators and politicians, who say they scrutinize Musk’s movements. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters during Monday’s briefing that the White House was “keeping tabs on” Musk’s handling of Twitter.

“We have always been very clear that when it comes to social media platforms, it is their responsibility to ensure that when it comes to misinformation, when it comes to hate what we see, they act,” said Jean-dit Pierre. She said President Biden would continue to stress the responsibility of platforms to prevent their services from being used to incite violence.

Twitter, like other companies, has warned investors in regulatory filings that the success of its services depends on their surviving scrutiny for compliance with App Store rules.

“Such review processes can be difficult to predict, and certain decisions can adversely affect our business,” the company wrote in a 2021 filing to the Security and Exchange Commission.

A former Twitter executive warned earlier this month that this assessment is an understatement and that Google and Apple’s app stores “may be the single most important check on the rampant discourse on the mainstream internet. “.

“Failure to follow Apple and Google’s guidelines would be catastrophic, risking Twitter’s expulsion from their app stores and making it harder for billions of potential users to obtain Twitter’s services,” wrote Yoel Roth, the company’s former head of trust and security. an editorial from the New York Times.

App Store representatives have regularly raised concerns about the content available on Twitter, Roth said. He cited an example of a time a reviewer contacted the affected company about results that came up when he searched for “#boobs” in the Twitter app. Another time, a reviewer asked if a days-old tweet containing a racial slur in English violated company rules.

Apple and Google could see pressure from liberal groups and civil rights organizations to ensure Musk’s Twitter adheres to their policies.

“I think Apple and Google should be no exception to Twitter when it comes to their terms of service and that’s something I’ve been saying since May that it’s going to be advertisers and app stores that will be the fulcrum,” said Angelo Carusone, president of Media Matters, a left-leaning media watchdog group that was among the organizers of the advertiser boycott on Twitter.

Apple and Google have been criticized for haphazardly applying their app store standards. The companies faced a broad backlash from conservatives after their decision to ban Talk, a social network popular with supporters of former President Donald Trump, following the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol. Moving was a departure for Apple, which has always reached out to developers to work with them on improving their content moderation capabilities.

Apple has promoted the App Store as a “safe and trusted place”, but it has struggled to meet its standards. A 2019 review found 1,500 reports of unwanted sexual behavior, many of them targeting children, on popular apps in the company’s App Store.

Naomi Nix contributed to this report.

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