Nov 28 (Reuters) – Elon Musk accused Apple Inc ( AAPL.O ) of threatening to block Twitter Inc from its app store without saying why in a series of tweets on Monday that also said the iPhone maker had stopped advertising on the social media platform.
The billionaire CEO of Twitter and Tesla said Apple pressured 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 among American conservatives, was reinstated by Apple in 2021 after the app updated its content and moderation practices, the companies said at the time.
“Apple has pretty much stopped advertising on Twitter. Do they hate free speech in America?” Musk, who took Twitter private last month for $44 billion, said in a tweet.
He later tagged Apple CEO Tim Cook’s Twitter account in another tweet, asking “what’s going on here?”
Apple did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
“It wasn’t clear to me how far up Apple’s supply chain that idea went internally, and not knowing that, it’s not clear how seriously I should take any of this,” said Randal Picker, a professor at the University of Chicago Law School.
The world’s most valuable company spent an estimated $131,600 on Twitter ads between Nov. 10 and Nov. 16, down from $220,800 between Oct. 16 and Oct. 22, the week before Musk ended the Twitter deal, according to ad tracking 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.
Twitter did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment on the report.
‘GO TO WAR’
Among the list of grievances Musk tweeted 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 pay the commission.
The fee has drawn criticism and lawsuits from companies such as Epic Games, the maker of ‘Fortnite’, while drawing scrutiny from regulators globally.
The commission could weigh in on Musk’s efforts to boost subscription revenue at Twitter, in part to offset the exodus of advertisers over concerns about content moderation.
Companies from General Mills Inc ( GIS.N ) to luxury car maker Audi of America have halted or halted advertising on Twitter since the acquisition, and Musk said earlier this month that the company had seen a “massive” drop in revenue.
Advertising sales account for approximately 90% of Twitter’s revenue.
The self-described free speech absolutist, whose company has in recent days restored several Twitter accounts, including that of former US President Donald Trump, has accused activist groups of pressuring advertisers.
Ben Bajarin, head of consumer technologies at research firm Creative Strategies, said Musk may be reading too much into a standard process Apple goes through in app review.
“App review by Apple is by no means perfect and a consistently frustrating process for developers, but from what I hear it’s a two-way conversation,” he said.
Reporting by Tiyashi Datta and Akash Sriram in Bengaluru and Sheila Dang in Dallas; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta and Sriraj Kalluvila
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