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Twitter goes to “war” with Apple

Twitter owner Elon Musk has fired back at Apple for its strict controls on what is allowed in the App Store, saying the iPhone maker has threatened to oust its recently acquired social media platform.

Musk also joined the chorus of laments about the 30 percent fee Apple collects on transactions through its App Store, the only gateway for digital content to appear on its coveted mobile devices. A series of tweets released by Musk included a meme of a car bearing his first name pulling onto a freeway that says “Go to War” instead of continuing on to “Pay 30%.”

The billionaire CEO also tweeted that Apple has “threatened to pull Twitter from its App Store, but won’t tell us why.” Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment. To be admitted to the Apple and Google app stores, social networking services must have effective systems in place to moderate harmful or offensive content. But since taking over Twitter last month, Musk has laid off about half of Twitter’s workforce, including many employees tasked with fighting disinformation, and an unknown number of others who have left voluntarily.

It also reinstated previously banned accounts, including those of former President Donald Trump. Yoel Roth, Twitter’s former head of trust and safety, who left after Musk took over, wrote in a New York Times op-ed that “failing to follow Apple and Google’s guidance would be catastrophic” and risk “kicking out of their app stores”. Describing himself as a “free speech absolutist”, Musk believes that Twitter should allow any posts permitted by law, and described his actions as “a revolution against online censorship in America”. Musk claims that Twitter is seeing record-high engagement with him at the helm, an approach that has surprised the company’s main source of money – advertisers. In recent weeks, half of Twitter’s top 100 advertisers announced they were stopping or otherwise “appeared to have stopped advertising on Twitter,” an analysis by the nonprofit watchdog group Media Matters found.

Musk accused Apple of also “stopping its advertising on Twitter.” “Do they hate free speech in America?” he asked, before responding with a tweet that tagged Apple CEO, Tim Cook. Sara Roberts, an expert in information studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, told AFP that “Musk didn’t understand that Twitter itself is a brand, it has prestige.” “Now companies don’t even want to be associated with it. It’s not even that they’re worried about the content. Twitter is a tarnished brand, a brand non grata that companies don’t want to be associated with,” she added. Musk also called Apple’s charge on transactions through its App Store a “secret 30% tax.” He shared a video released last year by Fortnite creator Epic Games that portrayed Apple as an oppressor in a mocking version of the famous “1984” ad for Macintosh computers. Apple has clashed in court with Epic, which has tried to break Apple’s grip on the App Store, accusing the iPhone maker of running a monopoly on its digital goods or services store. Last year, a federal judge ordered Apple to loosen controls on payment options in the App Store but said Epic had failed to prove antitrust violations had occurred.

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