Elon Musk threatens ‘war’ with Apple in row over Twitter

Elon Musk has claimed that his aim at Twitter is to maximise free speech (PA Wire)
Elon Musk has claimed that his aim at Twitter is to maximise free speech (PA Wire)

Elon Musk has threatened to “go to war” with Apple after accusing the iPhone maker of threatening to withhold Twitter from its App Store and stopping advertising on the platform.

The Twitter owner also questioned whether the tech company hated free speech and if it might go after another of his companies, Tesla Inc, in a flurry of tweets on Monday.

His tirade was part of a broader narrative, with the billionaire trying to paint Apple as a monopoly, using its power to censor voices, and charging “a secret 30 per cent tax” on transactions in its App Store.

His latest attack began with one tweet saying Apple had “mostly stopped advertising on Twitter.” Mr Musk asked: “Do they hate free speech in America?”

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Mr Musk, the Tesla chief executive who acquired Twitter in October, then directed a tweet at Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook: “What’s going on here @tim_cook?”

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A few minutes later, he claimed that Apple might boot Twitter from its app store “but won’t tell us why.”

He wrote: “Apple has also threatened to withhold Twitter from its App Store, but won’t tell us why”

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Mr Musk has previously said that Apple charged exorbitant fees on in-app purchases. On November 11, he posted a meme that suggested he would rather “go to war” than pay the company’s 30 per cent commission.

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The meme suggested that Mr Musk might be considering taking the same path as Epic Games Inc and sidestepping Apple’s fees.

In another tweet, Mr Musk suggested that Apple had made demands on Twitter’s content moderation. He also posted a yes-no survey: “Apple should publish all censorship actions it has taken that affect its customers.”

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Apple was previously consistently one of Twitter’s top advertisers, with ad spending at well over $100 million annually, Yahoo reports.

Senior marketing and media executive Lou Paskalis said: “Elon Musk now represents a risk, and Apple is not going to take that risk on.”

Apple’s App Store currently gives Mr Musk access to more than 1.5 billion devices worldwide.

Mr Musk, 51, is trying to make Twitter less reliant on advertising by steering users toward its Blue subscription service. But ad services generated nearly 90 per cent of its $5.1 billion in revenue last year, with a good chunk coming from Apple.

Earlier this month, Apple executive Phil Chiller deleted his Twitter account shortly after Mr Musk reinstated the account of former US president Donald Trump. Mr Trump been removed from the platform after the storming of the Capitol in January 2021.

Apple’s Mr Cook has continued to use Twitter personally since Mr Musk’s acquisition. He posted a Thanksgiving message last week “wishing everyone a joyful day.”

Mr Musk has also previously tweeted that if Twitter were to be removed from the Apple and Google app stores, he would make an alternative phone that can work with the platform. Twitter users began referring to this as a “Tesla phone”, with the term trending on Twitter on Monday.

He has also claimed that his aim at Twitter is to maximise free speech. He frequently uses his personal account, which has 119 million followers, to criticise perceived adversaries as well as the mainstream media.

In controlling the two major mobile app stores, Apple and Google are frequently referred to as a “duopoly”. This was a term Mr Musk used in his latest tweets. US Representative Ken Buck, a Republican from Colorado, took up that idea on Monday. He quoted one of Mr Musk’s tweets and said the US should end the app store duopoly before the end of the year. “No one should have this kind of market power,” he said.

Concluding his tirade on Monday, Mr Musk promised more information on free speech suppression in “The Twitter Files”.

The tweet read: “The Twitter Files on free speech suppression soon to be published on Twitter itself. The public deserves to know what really happened.”

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