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Musk asks if Apple “hates free speech” because it cut Twitter ad spending

An iPhone screen prompt asks a user to confirm if they want to remove the Twitter app from the device.

Getty Images | Samuel Corum

Twitter owner and CEO Elon Musk yesterday asked if Apple “hates free speech”—because the iPhone maker isn’t spending as much on Twitter advertising as it used to. “Apple has mostly stopped advertising on Twitter. Do they hate free speech in America?” Musk wrote. “What’s going on here @tim_cook?”

Musk didn’t explain how Apple’s Twitter ad spending is related to its stance on free speech. But he subsequently wrote a series of tweets criticizing Apple’s policies and claimed that Apple threatened to pull Twitter off the iOS App Store.

“Apple has also threatened to withhold Twitter from its App Store, but won’t tell us why,” Musk wrote a bit later. Musk did not provide further details on Apple’s demands or explain how Apple conveyed the message to Twitter.

“It’s a real problem. Apple and Google effectively control access to most of the Internet via their app stores,” Musk wrote today.

Twitter moderation laxer under Musk

Apple does pull apps from the iOS store for violating App Store policies, and many developers have complained about apps or app updates being rejected without a good explanation. For a social media company like Twitter, it’s possible that Apple has concerns about content moderation.

Apple kicked Parler off its app store in January 2021 and allowed it back on in April 2021 after the self-described “free speech” social network made changes to its content moderation. Google booted Parler in January 2021 and allowed the company back in September 2021.

While Twitter apparently had no problems staying on Apple’s App Store before Musk bought the company, mass layoffs and resignations have made it harder to enforce Twitter’s content moderation rules. The Musk-led Twitter has also chosen to stop enforcing its policy on misleading information about COVID-19, and some of Musk’s tweets yesterday suggest Musk isn’t happy about Apple’s stance on COVID misinformation.

We contacted Apple about Musk’s claims and will update this article if we get a response. Musk wrote on Friday that he would “make an alternative phone” if Apple and Google kick Twitter off their app stores.

Musk: “Who else has Apple censored?”

After one app maker told Musk yesterday that “During Covid, Apple demanded our apps filter some search terms from being returned,” Musk shared the tweet and wrote, “Who else has Apple censored?”

In another tweet about the search-term filtering, Musk wrote, “Secret suppression of free speech by Apple. Customers were never told. What the hell is going on here?” The app developer Musk was responding to had claimed that “Apple disallowed almost anything related to Covid, especially vaccines or human origins of the virus.”

In response to other people’s tweets saying that “Apple should support free speech” and that “Monopolies should be subject to the same limits we placed on our government in the Bill of Rights,” Musk replied, “Absolutely, especially if done in collusion with the government.”

Musk also polled users, asking whether “Apple should publish all censorship actions it has taken that affect its customers.”

Musk further criticized what he called Apple’s “secret 30% tax on everything you buy through their App Store.” Apple’s App Store commission is far from a secret and is the subject of a well-publicized lawsuit between Apple and Epic Games in which dozens of state attorneys general sided with Epic. Apple’s commission is 15 percent for developers with less than $1 million of annual App Store revenue under a rule change made in 2020.

After his flurry of Apple-related tweets, Musk wrote, “This is a battle for the future of civilization. If free speech is lost even in America, tyranny is all that lies ahead.”

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