After decimating Twitter’s workforce, imperiling its infrastructure and emptying its ad coffers all inside his first month on the firm, it’s on to the following factor for Elon Musk.
The erratic billionaire picked a battle with Apple in a sequence of tweets on Monday, bracing for a battle — or maybe simply one other volley of tweets — that might comfortably place the perpetually aggrieved Twitter proprietor because the David to Apple’s Goliath.
Musk is now claiming that Apple threatened to “withhold” Twitter from the App Retailer, implying that the iPhone maker may take motion towards the social app over adjustments underneath its new possession with out providing any proof of that. TechCrunch has reached out to Apple for clarification, however for now we don’t know if Apple actually contacted Twitter over content material moderation issues or one thing else solely.
Twitter’s new proprietor additionally claims that Apple has pulled most of its promoting on the platform, which appears doable and even seemingly contemplating what number of different main advert consumers have executed the identical since Musk’s takeover, citing issues about model security and content material moderation adjustments.
No matter is actually happening right here, a number of issues are true. For one, Twitter wants to remain within the App Retailer and to take action it must clear Apple’s low bar for content material moderation, which Fact Social and Parler — apps with far much less mature algorithmic content material moderation methods — have managed to do. Even with Musk’s threatened coverage adjustments and his deep cuts to moderation groups, Twitter would seemingly nonetheless stay on Apple’s good facet if these apps pulled it off.
It’s additionally true that Apple’s guidelines for what will get an app get kicked out of the App Retailer are imprecise and arbitrarily enforced. Apple warns against “content material that’s offensive, insensitive, upsetting, supposed to disgust, in exceptionally poor style, or simply plain creepy” which would appear to rule out plenty of social apps, pre-Musk Twitter included, if it actually got here right down to it.
On the identical time that Musk is portraying Apple as a censor, he’s additionally railing towards the charges the corporate expenses apps that function in its ecosystem. Musk calls this a “secret 30% tax” however in actuality Apple’s lower is well-documented and much-discussed. Epic Video games and Apple went to court docket over Apple’s charges in 2020, with Epic arguing that the iPhone maker wields monopoly energy within the software program market.
Whether or not intentional or not, Musk reigniting the App Retailer antitrust battle is well timed. Epic’s ongoing battle with Apple is kicking off again in appeals court and Congress may very well be poised for another push to cross the Open Markets Act, a bipartisan invoice that might crack open the App Retailer and “tear down coercive anticompetitive partitions within the app economic system,” based on its sponsors.
It’s additionally doable that Apple really has cautioned Musk that reinstating thousands of accounts banned for stuff like hate speech and harassment may nudge the app afoul of the App Retailer’s really fairly lenient content material moderation necessities. In that case, Musk might place himself as a excessive profile champion of the anti-Apple crowd, becoming a member of Epic’s complete factor and making good with regulators who’re rightfully involved over Musk’s Twitter plans (or lack thereof).
However even then, Twitter wants Apple in each the quick and long run and Apple actually doesn’t want Twitter. And combating on yet one more entrance would stretch Musk’s consideration much more when he ought to in all probability be targeted on the fundamentals, like not bankrupting Twitter or operating his myriad different corporations, say.
On the finish of the day, Musk, the world’s literal richest man and maker of luxurious vehicles and spaceships, typically appears to take pleasure in portraying himself as a scrappy upstart combating towards bigger powers that be. If Musk needs to recreate that dynamic at Twitter, Apple is arguably one of many solely entities that may nonetheless make the massively influential social media firm appear like the little man. Musk is perhaps the Twitter boss now, however he is aware of that turning everybody towards the massive boss is an efficient option to keep the approval of the miscellaneous web devotees that affirm his present beliefs and vote in his deeply unscientific tweet polls, so perhaps it’s nearly that.
No matter impressed his anti-Apple tirade, waging a battle on Apple might be a dropping battle. But it surely’s a contemporary battle that diverts consideration from Musk’s embarrassing and seemingly infinite parade of catastrophes as he fumbles Twitter’s coverage, personnel and product alike, presumably operating one of many world’s greatest social networks into the bottom within the course of.