Apple and Elon Musk’s Twitter are on a collision course

SpaceX Main Engineer Elon Musk can take part in a joint news conference with T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert (not pictured) at the SpaceX Starbase, in Brownsville, Texas, U.S., August 25, 2022.

Adrees Latif | Reuters

Elon Musk has announced huge, albeit bewildering, strategies for Twitter considering that he took in excess of the social network final month.

Musk wants to vastly maximize the earnings the enterprise will make by subscriptions although opening up the web site to a lot more “free of charge speech,” which in some instances appears to be to signify restoring earlier banned accounts like the just one owned by former president Donald Trump.

But Musk’s ideas for Twitter could put it in conflict with two of the most important tech companies: Apple and Google.

Tensions are brewing

Phil Schiller, senior vice president of all over the world marketing and advertising at Apple Inc., speaks at an Apple celebration at the Steve Employment Theater at Apple Park on September 12, 2018 in Cupertino, California.

Justin Sullivan | Getty Photos

There are indicators Twitter has previously viewed an raise in unsafe written content given that Musk has taken around, putting the company’s applications at hazard. In October, soon after Musk became “chief Twit,” a wave of on the net trolls and bigots flooded the site with loathe speech and racist epithets.

The trolls structured on 4chan, then barreled into Twitter with anti-Black and Jewish epithets. Twitter suspended quite a few of the accounts, according to the nonprofit Network Contagion Research Institute.

Musk’s strategy to supply compensated blue verification badges have also led to chaos and accounts impersonating key companies and figures, which have brought about some advertisers to shy absent from the social network, in individual, Eli Lilly immediately after a phony confirmed tweet erroneously reported insulin would be supplied for cost-free.

The application stores noticed.

“And as I departed the enterprise, the phone calls from the application evaluation teams had previously begun,” previous Twitter head of have confidence in and protection Yoel Roth wrote this thirty day period in the New York Times.

Charges and subscription profits

Twitter and Apple have been companions for years. In 2011, Apple deeply integrated tweets into its iOS running system. Tweets that function as official business communications are consistently posted below Apple CEO Tim Cook’s account. Apple has advertised new iPhones and its significant start functions on Twitter.

But the relationship seems poised to modify as Musk moves to create a larger bulk of cash flow from subscriptions.

Twitter claimed $5.08 billion in revenue in 2021. If fifty percent of that comes from subscriptions in the future, as Musk has said is the aim, hundreds of thousands and thousands of pounds would close up going to Apple and Google — a little volume for them, but a perhaps massive strike for Twitter.

A single of Apple’s key policies is that electronic content material — activity cash, or an avatar’s outfit, or a quality subscription— that’s ordered inside an Apple iphone app, has to use Apple’s in-application acquiring system, in which Apple payments the consumer right. Apple will take 30% of profits, decreasing to 15% after a yr for subscriptions, and pays the remainder to the developer.

Corporations this sort of as Epic Video games, Spotify, and Match Team foyer from Apple and Google’s policies as element of the Coalition for App Fairness. Microsoft and Meta have also submitted briefs in courtroom criticizing the technique and designed public remarks aimed at app suppliers.

A person choice for Musk is to choose an tactic equivalent to what Spotify has accomplished: Offer a reduce $9.99 cost on the internet, where by it doesn’t pay out Apple a reduce, and then users simply log in to their existing account inside the application. Users subscribing to a Top quality subscription within the Apple iphone application fork out $12.99, successfully masking Apple’s service fees.

Or Twitter could go even more, like Netflix, which stopped presenting subscriptions as a result of Apple totally in 2018.

Musk could offer Twitter Blue on the firm’s internet site at a less expensive cost and tweet to his about 118 million followers that Blue is only offered on It might perform and could aid cut Apple out of any costs.

But that also means Twitter would have to get rid of a lot of solutions for informing consumers about the subscription inside the application, exactly where they’re most most likely to make a obtaining final decision. And Apple has in depth rules about what applications can website link to when telling consumers about option methods to pay.

As Netflix’s app claims: “You won’t be able to signal up for Netflix in the application. We know it’s a stress.”

A power struggle above content moderation

Tim Cook, main govt officer of Apple Inc., speaks during the Apple All over the world Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Jose, California, U.S., on Monday, June 4, 2018. 

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Photos

Musk faces the electric power of Apple and Google and their capacity to decrease to approve or even pull apps that violate their regulations more than content moderation and harmful content material.

It can be occurred ahead of. Apple mentioned in a letter to Congress very last year that it had removed in excess of 30,000 apps from its retailer over objectionable material in 2020.

If app shop-similar problems strike Twitter, it could be “catastrophic,” according to the former Twitter head of have confidence in and security Roth. Twitter lists application assessment as a threat factor in filings with the SEC, he noted.

Apple and Google can remove apps for a variety of factors, like problems with an app’s stability and whether or not it complies with the system billing guidelines. And application critiques can hold off release schedules and bring about havoc when Musk needs to start new characteristics.

In the past number of several years, the application retailers have commenced additional intently scrutinizing consumer-produced material that begins shading into violent speech or social networks that absence written content moderation.

You will find precedent for a full ban. Apple and Google banned Parler, a significantly smaller sized and conservative-leaning web page, in 2020 after posts on the site promoted the U.S. Capitol riot on Jan. 6 and involved calls for violence. In Apple’s situation, the final decision to ban significant-profile applications is built by a team named the Executive Assessment Board, which is led by Schiller — the Apple govt who deleted his Twitter account about the weekend.

While Apple accredited Truth Social, Trump’s social networking application, in February, it took extended for Google Enjoy to approve it. The organization explained to CNBC in August that the social network lacked “successful systems for moderating consumer-created information” and for that reason violated Google’s Play Retail outlet terms of services. Google sooner or later accepted the application in October, declaring that apps want to “remove objectionable posts these types of as people that incite violence.”

Musk reportedly fired numerous of Twitter’s get hold of written content moderators this month.

Apple and Google have been very careful whilst banning apps like Parler, pointing to distinct guideline violations like screenshots of the offending posts, in its place of citing wide political explanations or stress from lawmakers. On a social community as substantial as Twitter, it’s generally probable to find written content that hasn’t been flagged yet.

Nevertheless, Apple and Google are unlikely to want to wade into a tricky struggle in excess of what constitutes harmful information and facts and what would not. That could close up inviting general public scrutiny and political debate. It truly is doable that application outlets just hold off approving new variations as an alternative of threatening to eliminate applications totally.

Long run characteristics could also irk Apple and Google and prompt a nearer glimpse at the platform’s present functions.

Musk has reportedly talked about allowing end users to paywall person-produced films — a little something that previous personnel consider would direct to the characteristic being utilized for grownup written content, in accordance to the Washington Put up.

Apple’s Application Retailer has in no way authorized pornography, a plan that dates again to the firm’s founder, Steve Positions, and Google also bans applications centered all-around sexual material.

Something that isn’t really harmless for work wants to be hidden by default. Twitter currently enables grownup articles, which could put it even far more immediately into reviewer sights.

“Apps with person-generated articles or services that finish up becoming made use of generally for pornographic information … do not belong on the App Store and may possibly be removed with no discover,” Apple’s suggestions say.

But Musk usually operates toward battles, not away from them. Now he has to make your mind up irrespective of whether it really is worth getting on two of the most precious and powerful organizations in Silicon Valley over 30% costs and Twitter’s skill to host edgy tweets.

An Apple consultant did not react to a request for comment. A Google consultant declined to remark. Twitter didn’t respond to an e mail and the corporation no longer has a communications department. Musk failed to respond to a tweet.