Elon Musk’s tumultuous month atop Twitter Inc. included firing most of the company’s employees, tinkering with key features, and reinstating banned accounts.
Elon Musk’s tumultuous month atop Twitter Inc. included firing most of the company’s employees, tinkering with key features, and reinstating banned accounts. Now he’s embarking on what might be his most risky move: a war with Apple Inc.
The billionaire attacked the iPhone maker with a series of tweets on Monday, saying the company had cut ads on Twitter and threatening to remove the social network from Apple’s app store. He asked if Apple hates free speech, criticizes its app fees and even considers whether the tech giant might go after another of its companies, Tesla Inc.
In taking aim at Apple, Musk is challenging a company vital to Twitter’s livelihood. According to people familiar with the matter, Apple has always been one of the top advertisers on the social network, having an entire staff dedicated to helping maintain relationships. One of them said annual ad spending is over $100 million.
“Elon Musk now represents risk, and Apple Lou Paskalis, senior director of marketing and communications, said he wouldn’t take that risk. Who previously helped direct advertising for Bank of America Corp.
Apple also operates an essential portal for Twitter users: the App Store. If Musk’s company loses access to that, it will be cut off from more than 1.5 billion devices around the world.
But the billionaire has some leverage of his own. In portraying his struggles as a fight for free speech, he is able to rally his millions of fans. And his disdain for Apple’s app store Fees are shared by software developers, legislators and regulators around the world, giving him a potential edge.
Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Some Twitter users said on Monday that they continue to see Apple ads in their feeds, but a person familiar with the matter confirmed that the company has reduced the ads.
The Cupertino, California-based company holds meetings with Twitter to discuss a variety of issues — about once a week — just like with other major social networks. applicationconsists of Facebook and Instagram. According to one of the people familiar with the company’s strategy, Apple used to rely heavily on Twitter because it didn’t advertise on Facebook.
Apple has joined several major companies in scaling back their ads on Twitter since Musk bought the company for $44 billion last month. The exodus includes General Mills Inc. and Pfizer Inc., and he previously admitted that the defections had resulted in a “severe drop” in revenue.
The overall online advertising market is in a slump, but marketers are particularly wary of Twitter for fear it will become more chaotic. Since taking over, Musk has cut thousands job at Twitter, raising concerns that the platform would not be able to combat hate speech and misinformation. A new approach to account verification also opens the door for scammers to impersonate major brands, as well as Musk himself.
Musk, 51, is trying to make Twitter less dependent on ads by directing users to his Blue subscription service. But ad services generated nearly 90% of its $5.1 billion in revenue last year, with a large portion coming from Apple.
A series of tweets criticizing Apple began with a statement that the company “almost stopped advertising on Twitter.” Musk asked: “Do they hate free speech in America?”
He then sent a tweet about Apple CEO Tim Cook: “What’s going on here?” Minutes later, he announced that Apple could launch Twitter from its app store “but won’t say we why.”
Earlier this month, longtime Apple executive Phil Schiller, who oversees the app store, deleted his Twitter account. Time to raise an eyebrow. That’s right after Musk restored the former President’s account Donald Trumpwho was kicked off the platform after the attack on the US Capitol in January 2021.
Musk had previously said he would form a content panel to consider whether to reinstate Trump’s account, but he later made the move based on the results of a poll on the internet. Twitter. “He said the right things, but he did the wrong things and that was almost worse,” Paskalis said.
Apple’s Cook has continued to use personal Twitter since Musk’s acquisition. He posted a Thanksgiving message last week “have a nice day everyone.”
Musk previously tweeted that if Twitter were removed from Apple and Google Apps store, he will create an alternative phone that can work with the platform. Fans of the idea — and its detractors alike — have begun calling it a “Tesla phone,” and that term trended on Twitter Monday.
Musk, who also runs Tesla and SpaceX, has said that his mission at Twitter is to maximize freedom of expression. He frequently uses his personal account, which has more than 119 million followers, to criticize his supposed opponents and the mainstream media.
Musk previously said that Apple charges an exorbitant fee for in-app purchases, and he renewed that attack direction on Monday. He posted a meme suggesting that he would rather “go to war” than pay the company 30% commission.
The meme signaled that Musk might be considering going down the path of Epic Games Inc. and bypass Apple charges. When Epic made such a move, Apple removed the hit game Fortnite, sparking a years-long legal battle.
But if Musk wanted to start selling Twitter Blue subscriptions through the website — bypassing Apple’s 30% — he could already do so. The app store allows services to be available on multiple platforms using that approach.
The problem will arise if Twitter advertises an alternative in its app or adds a button that directs users to a payment option on the web. That move could risk getting Twitter removed from the app store.
In another tweet, Musk suggested that Apple had made a request for Twitter’s content moderation. He also posted a yes-no survey: “Apple should disclose all the censorship actions it has taken that affect its customers.”
In controlling the two major mobile app stores, Apple and Google are often referred to as “monopoly,” a term Musk uses in his tweets. U.S. Representative Ken Buck, a Republican from Colorado, floated the idea Monday. He quoted one of Musk’s tweets and said that the US should end its app store monopoly before the end of the year. “No one should have this kind of market power,” he said.
Apple has strict rules for its app store that restrict objectionable content, including discriminatory content related to religion, race, and sexual orientation. It also restricts pornography and overly realistic violence.
Apple and Google have previously removed social networks, including Parler, from their platforms due to inadequate content moderation. In Parler’s case, the app was eventually reinstated on both app stores after the social network followed a series of steps to ensure it was moderating content.
After directing a few jabs at Apple, Musk promised to provide more information about blocking freedom of speech in “The Twitter Files,” to be published — where else? — on Twitter.
“The public deserves to know what really happened,” he said.