Frequent Elon Musk watchers raised an eyebrow on Monday when the billionaire started lashing out at Apple and its CEO, Tim Cook, over the many ways Twitter had been wronged, at least in his view. At one point, Musk even tweeted a meme about “going to war” with Apple, but later appeared to change his mind. He deleted the tweet, seemingly stopping his war plans—for now.
Musk began his multi-tweet rant against Apple by complaining that the company had mostly stopped advertising on Twitter. In a tweet on Monday, the Twitter chief accused Apple of stopping advertising because “they hate free speech.” Apple is one Twitter’s top advertisers, the Washington Post reported, spending $48 million on ads in first quarter of the year.
“Apple has mostly stopped advertising on Twitter. Do they hate free speech in America?” Musk said. In another tweet, he added: “What’s going on here @tim_cook?”
Musk is keeping a close eye on advertising, which makes up about 90% of the company’s revenue, even though it might not seem like it given his chaotic and questionable management. Last week, the watchdog group Media Matters for America said in a report that Twitter had lost 50 of its top 100 advertisers since Musk took over.
Cook, who rarely gets into public drama, didn’t reply to Musk.
Musk wasn’t done airing his beef with Apple, though, which went well beyond advertising. He subsequently expressed his displeasure over Apple’s “secret” 30% tax on in-app purchases made through the App Store. However, Apple’s infamous “App Store tax” has been public knowledge for years, even if that knowledge has apparently never reached Musk’s ears. It’s written into the iPhone maker’s policies.
The Twitter CEO was so incensed that he tweeted a meme suggesting he would rather go to war with Apple than agree to its 30% tax. Musk later deleted the tweet, suggesting he thought twice about poking the bear named Apple, also known as the most valuable public company in the world.
The 30% tax has also been hotly debated, most notably via a lawsuit filed by Epic Games, creator of Fortnite, against Apple. In 2021, a judge ruled in Apple’s favor, stating that the company had not created an unfair monopoly in its App Store. The judge determined that Epic Games had violated Apple’s developer agreement. Recently, Spotify has also complained over Apple’s 30% tax when it started selling audiobooks. Because Spotify doesn’t want to pay the tax or raise prices, users can’t buy audiobooks through the Spotify app on Apple devices.
Musk may have found out about the 30% tax from one of the remaining workers at Twitter he hasn’t fired. Musk wants Twitter to obtain at least 50% of its revenue from subscriptions in the future to reduce its reliance on advertising, but, as Apple’s policies stand, the company gets a 30% cut of subscriptions for purchases made by customers using its devices.
Yet, complaining still seemed to be fair game in the billionaire’s mind. After stating he would build his own phone if Apple and Google kicked Twitter out of their app stores, Musk confirmed on Monday that Twitter has received such threats from Apple.
“Apple has also threatened to withhold Twitter from its App Store, but won’t tell us why,” Musk stated.
One possible, and extremely plausible, reason can be found on Apple’s App Store review guidelines, which state that apps “should not include content that is offensive, insensitive, upsetting, intended to disgust, in exceptionally poor taste, or just plain creepy.” Failing to remove videos of Christchurch mosque shooting until prompted to do so, offering “general amnesty” to suspended accounts, and tweeting out conspiracy theories could fit that bill. Twitter has also long been one of the few non-browser apps that readily allows users to access pornography, which is forbidden by the App Store.
Apple will reject apps that it believes are over the line, according to the guidelines.
“What line, you ask? Well, as a Supreme Court Justice once said, ‘I’ll know it when I see it,’” Apple’s guidelines state, referencing a Supreme Court case about, of all things, pornography. “And we think that you will also know it when you cross it.”
Musk is, no doubt, a smart man who knows when he crosses the line. He just doesn’t care if he does. In response to a tweet asking for allies to stand with Musk against Apple on Monday, the billionaire seemed to be putting his boxing gloves on.
“Support is greatly appreciated!”
Apple didn’t reply to Gizmodo’s request for comment on Musk’s statements.