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Musk claims Apple ‘threatened to withhold Twitter’ from App Store

Elon Musk claimed that Apple threatened to withhold Twitter from the App Store for unspecified reasons in a series of tweets on Tuesday. The Tesla chief, in a series of tweets, noted that the iPhone maker has largely ceased advertising on the social media platform.

“Apple has also threatened to withhold Twitter from its App Store, but won’t tell us why,” Musk wrote in a tweet. He claimed that the tech giant was pressuring Twitter on content moderation demands. 

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Elon Musk’s claims.

Musk, who describes himself as a “free speech absolutist,” previously claimed that he is against censorship that goes far beyond the law. “If people want less free speech, they will ask the government to pass laws to that effect,” he said, highlighting in another tweet that this is a battle for the future of civilisation. “If free speech is lost even in America, tyranny is all that lies ahead,” he said.

Musk bought Twitter last month after which he said that it will form a content moderation council, whose mandate would be to bring diverse views on the subject. Of late, the social media platform has restored a number of banned accounts which includes former US President Donald Trump.

App Store is a main mobile app distribution channel on smart devices running on iOS, which allows users to download and use the Twitter app. If the Twitter app was removed from the App Store over content moderation concerns, the micro-blogging platform would stand to lose one of its primary distribution channels.

According to a New York Times op-ed written by Twitter’s former head of trust and safety, Yoel Roth, “failure to adhere to Apple’s and Google’s guidelines would be catastrophic,” and risk “expulsion from their app stores.”

In the past, Apple has routinely applied its App Store rules and removed social media apps like Parler on similar grounds.

In another tweet, Musk claimed, “Apple has mostly stopped advertising on Twitter. Do they hate free speech in America?” In a subsequent tweet, tagging Apple Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Tim Cook, Musk said, “What’s going on here @tim_cook?”

In the past, the social media company has relied mainly on advertising revenue. However, Musk also plans to generate revenue through subscriptions as he is trying to retain advertisers, post his $44 billion acquisition, and has blamed activist groups for pressuring advertisers.

Concerns over service fee

Musk also highlighted Apple’s 15-30% service fee levied for in-app purchases. In a tweet, he wrote, “Did you know Apple puts a secret 30% tax on everything you buy through their App Store?”

​​Both Apple and its rival Google control their mobile app stores and have been criticised for collecting a service fee for digital purchases. Companies like Spotify and Epic Games have challenged Apple’s App Store fees and policies.

In 2020, Fortnite was removed from the App Store after Epic Games introduced an option for gamers to make in-app purchases directly, bypassing Apple’s payment system—a violation of its App Store policy.

Musk also posted a tweet, sharing a video released last year by Epic Games when the company was battling with the tech giant over its App Store policy.

The billionaire entrepreneur signalled he was willing to go to “war” with the iPhone maker instead of paying the commission, by posting a meme, where a car (with his first name) can be seen veering off the highway towards a road sign: “Go to war”, instead of taking the other route: “Pay 30%”, however, the tweet is no longer available.

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