Elon Musk, the richest person in the world and new head of Twitter, has taken it out on Apple, the most valuable company in the world. On Monday you published a series of tweets accusing it of having stopped advertising investments on Twitter and of having threatened to remove the application from its App Store, the service through which apps are distributed on iPhones and iPads. Musk then criticized the fees applied by Apple within the App Store, rhetorically asked whether or not the company is against freedom of expression and directly questioned its CEO, Tim Cook, on Twitter, without receiving an answer.
The new allegations come after a few days of relative calm during a tumultuous time for Twitter, which lost more than half of its 7,500 employees following a $44 billion takeover by Musk in late October. first due to a drastic layoff plan and then due to mass resignations. Entire working groups within the company no longer exist or do not have enough staff to work, with repercussions in many sectors: from ensuring the safety of users on the social network to those for advertising collection, essential for revenues of Twitter.
Apple had long been one of the biggest spenders on Twitter advertising. According to a report obtained by the Washington PostIn the first quarter of this year alone, Apple spent about $48 million on Sponsored Tweets, making it the social network’s top advertiser. Apple’s spending was more than 4 percent of Twitter’s revenue that quarter.
However, after the acquisition of Musk, things have changed and Apple, like many other companies, has preferred to reduce or suspend numerous advertising campaigns on Twitter. The smaller amount of sponsored tweets had been noticed by various users and finally prompted Musk to deal with it, not privately with Apple managers, but directly on Twitter with a series of tweets addressed to the company and to Tim Cook.
In an initial tweet Musk wrote: «Apple has almost completely stopped its advertising on Twitter. Do they hate free speech in America?” He then mentioned Cook’s profile to ask what was going on. The topic of censorship and freedom of expression is recurring for Musk, even if it is not clear how Apple’s choice not to advertise on a social network could generally affect people’s ability and ability to express themselves freely.
What’s going on here @tim_cook?
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 28, 2022
In another tweet, Musk later said that Apple had threatened to suspend Twitter from the App Store “but without telling us why”. The tweet contained no further information, but was followed up by a follow-up message on the fees applied by Apple within its application distribution system: “Did you know that Apple puts a secret tax of 30 percent on everything you buy through the App Store?”.
Apple has also threatened to withhold Twitter from its App Store, but won’t tell us why
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 28, 2022
The percentage required by Apple of those who offer paid applications on the App Store has been discussed for a long time not only among app producers, but also by the antitrust authorities and by the parliaments of various countries. Through its distribution system, Apple maintains a de facto monopoly on what can and cannot be downloaded to iPhones and iPads, as a result developers must abide by its rules in order to reach millions of people with their applications and their services . Apple also asks for a percentage of any purchase made within the app, preventing developers from offering alternative payment systems within their applications.
For months now, the United States Congress has been discussing some bills to change the way the App Store works and, more generally, the way other application distribution and sales systems work, including Google Play for smartphones with Android operating system. One of the most shared proposals between Democrats and Republicans plans to untie the operating systems of Apple (iOS) and Google (Android) from their respective stores, so that there may be others from which to download applications at different prices. In part, this system is already active for Android, but the alternative stores offer fewer features and above all they cannot benefit from some services that Google reserves for its applications.
Apple argues that such high commissions are the only solution to guarantee its users secure applications and reduce the risk of being scammed. According to several observers, a commission of almost a third of the transaction is not justified in any case, significantly reduces revenues especially for smaller companies and harms users, due to the lack of competition and the possibility of downloading apps at more advantageous prices.
In 2020, the producers of Fortnite, one of the most successful video games for smartphones, had introduced a payment system to bypass the commissions imposed by app store managers. In a short time, Apple had suspended and then removed Fortnite from its App Store, while a court case was launched to resolve the matter.
At the time Epic Games, the company that develops Fortnite, had produced a parody of the famous “1984” commercial with which Apple presented the new Macintosh which ideally broke a dictatorial regime, referring to the large computer companies of the time, with various inspirations from the dystopian novel of the same title by George Orwell. Among the tweets published on Monday, Musk took up that video calling it “correct” in reference to the current situation and the control that Apple now exercises from his point of view.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 28, 2022
Musk is very interested in the question because since he has controlled Twitter he has been working to create a subscription version of the social network, which costs $8 a month and makes it possible to have a verified profile. The most convenient way to subscribe would be through the app, but that way Apple would keep 30 percent of each transaction for itself. Twitter could decide not to include the option to subscribe in its app, inviting you to go to its site to sign up for a subscription, but the procedure would be much less immediate, as the developers of other subscription apps who have followed the same path know well .
In Musk’s plans, the Twitter application should over time be enriched with other features, including those for micropayments and the purchase of digital products with small sums (for example to read an article or watch a video). In order to activate these functions, Twitter should comply with other rules imposed by Apple, which if violated can lead to the suspension of the application and its removal from the App Store.
In the tweets published on Monday, Musk did not explain why Apple had “threatened” to suspend the Twitter application, saying he had not received any explanations from Apple. Suspension usually occurs when applications include services that are not permitted, content that is not permitted by the rules of the App Store is shared or there are references to alternative payment systems for certain features.
If Apple decides to suspend or remove Twitter from the App Store, users who had previously downloaded the application could continue to use it normally, but Twitter could no longer send updates to fix malfunctions or introduce new features. New subscribers also couldn’t download the app on their iPhones.
In recent weeks, however, Musk had already shown some intolerance towards Apple and Google for how they administer their stores. In a tweet he had alluded to to the possibility of starting to produce its own smartphone, in order to avoid what it considers censorship by the two companies.
On several occasions, Apple has taken positions against the limits to freedom of expression and the right to privacy of its users, in some cases not collaborating with law enforcement agencies to give them access to personal information on iPhones. The company frequently highlights its commitment to privacy, including initiatives to reduce online tracking that is often used for commercial advertising purposes. Apple has long blocked numerous tracking systems, making the advertisements shown to users by large platforms less effective. The change especially affected Meta’s ability to generate advertising revenue through Facebook and Instagram, leading to a worsening relationship between the two companies.
Apple also maintains strict rules about what content can be in iPhone apps, with restrictions on pornography and violence. For social networks, the rules are less strict as long as their managers implement moderation work when necessary. Interviewed a few days ago on Musk’s new management of Twitter, Cook said that there was no intention to remove the application from the App Store if the social network continued to moderate controversial content: “I don’t think there is someone who wants hate speech on their platform, so I trust they will continue to do so.”
However, some Apple executives had shown signs of not liking some of the recent decisions made by Musk. The choice to readmit the former president of the United States, Donald Trump, through a simple survey conducted on the platform by Musk himself, for example, took place in conjunction with the decision of a historic Apple executive, Phil Schiller, to cancel his profile from the platform.
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