Elon Musk said that his company SpaceX cannot finance the Starlink service in Ukraine “indefinitely”.
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Twitter owner Elon Musk claimed as much in a series of tweets on Monday apple Twitter threatened to remove the app from the App Store as part of its app review moderation process.
“Apple has also threatened to remove Twitter from the App Store, but won’t tell us why,” Musk said he tweeted.
In other tweets Monday morning, he called Apple’s App Store payments “hidden 30% tax,” and ran away request “Apple should publish all censorship actions that affect its customers,” he asked. He also claimed that Apple pulls most of its ads from Twitter.
Apple’s App Store is the only way to distribute software to iPhones. If the Twitter app is canceled, the social network will lose one of its main distribution platforms, although the service remains available for the web.
In addition, Apple requires iPhone app developers to pay 15% to 30% of any digital goods sold through their apps. Musk said one of his plans for Twitter is to raise billions of dollars from subscriptions like Twitter Blue, which is offered through its iPhone app. If it were to meet Musk’s goals, Apple would rake in hundreds of millions of dollars in the process.
Companies like Apple have had issues with their App Store payments and policies Spotify and Epic Games, but Musk is no stranger to worldwide attention and may be Apple’s biggest challenge to date over its control over iPhone app distribution.
Apple declined to comment on Musk’s tweets.
But there are signs that Apple is closely monitoring the social network to see if it violates any App Store policies.
According to the New York Times, representatives of unnamed app stores, including Apple’s App Store and Google Play for Android devices, took to Twitter after Musk took office earlier this month and saw a wave of hate speech on the site. By Yoel Roth, Twitter’s former head of trust and security.
Phil Schiller, Apple’s former chief marketer who oversaw App Review, apparently deleted his Twitter account after Musk took over earlier this month.
Philip Shoemaker, Apple’s former head of app review and current CEO of Identity.com, said the move to delete Schiller’s account reminded him of a company moving to “prepare for war.” He believes that Apple’s app review department is closely monitoring Twitter’s content moderation under Musk to see if more questionable content, such as porn, gets through.
Apple’s latest moves are “like when you pull troops out of a country before you attack,” Shoemaker said. “You think you should get these apps from the store.”
Where Twitter Can Violate Apple’s Rules
There are two main reasons why the Apple App Store is taking a closer look at Twitter its public instructions:
- Apple requires applications with user-generated content, such as Twitter, to have robust content moderation systems in place. Apple launched Parler, a smaller Twitter competitor, in 2020 because of insufficient content moderation. Musk has reportedly significantly reduced Twitter’s content moderation workforce.
- Apple charges between 30% and 15% for digital purchases from apps. When Epic Games built a system to bypass Apple’s cutoff, Apple took it down. If Twitter took a similar step, it could force Apple’s hand.
There are other reasons why Twitter doesn’t follow Apple’s rules, including its insistence that adult content cannot be detected by default. Twitter remains one of the most prominent social networks to enable adult content, opening up gray areas for App Store delays or issues.
Apple’s App Store uses staff to review every app and update available on the platform. App reviewers often post brief responses that highlight problems without clearly explaining what they need to do to get apps to pass, CNBC previously reported.
Musk has been tweaking Apple for years and seems to be enjoying it. He has complained about Apple’s app store fees in the past Tesla the app does not allow in-app purchases. He also took issue with Apple’s plan to build electric cars, although Apple’s secretive project never shipped a car.
In 2015, Musk teased Apple, saying it only hires rejected Tesla employees, and he called Apple a “Tesla graveyard.”
But Musk’s moves on Monday go beyond teasing and competition and suggest he may be preparing for a long public relations battle over Apple’s rules. In one tweet, he posted a meme the car goes off the highway under a road sign offering two options: “Pay 30%” and “Go to War”. The car chose the latter option.