Musk threatens 'war' with Apple over decision to pull Twitter advertising

Musk threatens 'war' with Apple over decision to pull Twitter advertising
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New Twitter CEO Elon Musk has launched a blistering series of attacks against Apple over the latter's alleged decision to limit its advertising on the social media platform.

In a flurry of tweets sent over a 15-minute period on Monday night, Musk claimed that Apple had "mostly stopped advertising on Twitter", and openly suggested that this was because Apple "hate[s] free speech in America".

Musk further claimed that Apple "threatened to withhold Twitter from its App Store, but it won't tell us why", and then posted a series of memes and videos criticising Apple’s monopolistic control over its App Store. He later tweeted: "Did you know Apple puts a secret 30% tax on everything you buy through their App Store?"

Musk's bellicose rhetoric became so heated that at one point that he even posted a meme implying that he was ready to "go to war" with Apple. The tweet has since been deleted.

Advertisers vs absolutism

Musk, a self-proclaimed "free speech absolutist", has alarmed advertisers in recent months over his declared commitment to relaxing Twitter's approach to content moderation. A free speech absolutist – it is worth noting – who has also been blocking accounts that criticise or impersonate him.

Since his $44 billion purchase of the platform last month, Musk has reinstated the accounts of a number of controversial public figures — including, most notably, former US President Donald Trump — and has also claimed that he will offer a "general amnesty" to those previously suspended from the platform "provided they have not broken the law or engaged in egregious spam".

American technology news website The Verge reported earlier this month that one of America's top ad agencies, Omnicom, whose clients include McDonald's, PepsiCo, and Apple, has recommended to its clients that they "pause on Twitter in the short term" due to brand safety concerns. According to Media Matters, a media watchdog, approximately half of Twitter's top 100 advertisers "have either announced or seemingly stopped advertising on Twitter" in recent weeks.

Media Matters' report was apparently confirmed by none other than Musk himself in early November, when he announced that Twitter had suffered a "massive drop in revenue" from advertisers.

The potential loss of Apple's advertising revenue, however, would constitute an especially enormous blow to Twitter: according to the The Washingon Post, Apple is the platform's top advertiser, spending $48 million in ads in just the first three months of 2022. Moreover, despite Musk's open attempts to transform Twitter into a more subscription-based service, Twitter is still enormously dependent upon advertising for its revenue, with 92% of its income coming from advertising in 2021.

A worrying precedent

Although Apple's complete suspension of its advertising on Twitter would constitute a major blow for Musk, its potential decision to ban Twitter from its App Store would be hugely more significant, given that it would prevent hundreds of millions of iPhone and iPad users from downloading the platform's app onto their devices.

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Worryingly for Musk, such a ban has historical precedent: Parler, a rival social media platform to Twitter, was suspended from the App Store last year after Apple claimed that it had "not taken adequate measures to address the proliferation" of hate speech. Parler was later reinstated after its adoption of stricter content moderation policies.

Musk, with his customary bravado, has suggested that, if Apple did ban Twitter from its App Store, he simply "will make an alternative phone" which would allow Twitter's app to be downloaded.

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