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Elon Musk accuses Apple of threatening to remove Twitter from App Store

Elon Musk has accused Apple of threatening to remove Twitter from its App Store without giving a reason to the social media platform.

Twitter’s new owner also said the iPhone maker had stopped advertising on Twitter, prompting him to ask if the tech group hated free speech.

Musk revealed the potential App Store ban in a series of tweets on Monday. He tweeted: “Apple has also threatened to withhold Twitter from its App Store, but won’t tell us why.”

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Musk appeared to confirm that Twitter content moderation was an issue for Apple. Asked by a journalist user if Apple was “threatening Twitter’s presence in the App Store or otherwise making moderation demands”, Musk replied “yes”.

Apple has been contacted for comment.

Earlier this month Twitter’s former head of trust and safety, who resigned in the wake of Musk’s $44bn (£36.8bn) takeover, warned of a “catastrophic” expulsion from the Apple and Google app stores. Yoel Roth wrote in the New York Times that any ejection from those app stores would make it “difficult for billions of potential users to get Twitter’s services”. Apple’s app guidelines state the company will reject apps “for any content or behavior that we believe is over the line”.

Earlier this month Phil Schiller, who leads Apple’s App Store, deleted his Twitter account in a move that immediately gave rise to speculation that Musk’s business relationship with a key Twitter app distributor was becoming strained.

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Parler, the rightwing social network being acquired by US rapper Ye, was restored by Apple in 2021 after the app updated its content and moderation practices, the companies said at the time.

One hour before disclosing the App Store threat, Musk also claimed that Apple had mostly stopped advertising on Twitter. He tweeted: “Apple has mostly stopped advertising on Twitter. Do they hate free speech in America?” He then tagged Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, asking “what’s going on here”.

Apple spent an estimated $131,600 on Twitter ads between 10 November and 16 November, down from $220,800 between 16 October and 22 October, the week before Musk closed the Twitter deal, according to ad measurement firm Pathmatics.

Related: Elon Musk's Twitter is fast proving that free speech at all costs is a dangerous fantasy | Nesrine Malik

Musk also tweeted a jibe on Thursday at the up to 30% fee Apple charges software developers for in-app purchases, with Musk posting a meme suggesting he was willing to “go to war” with Apple rather than pay the commission.

Musk, a self-described “free speech absolutist”, has alarmed advertisers who are concerned that he will allow a proliferation of hate speech on Twitter. Many big corporate names, including General Motors and Chipotle, have paused spending on Twitter. Their stance has been reinforced by a botched overhaul of Twitter’s verification service, which resulted in a spate of impersonator accounts being launched on the platform.

Last week Musk announced a “general amnesty” for permanently suspended Twitter accounts in a move that paved the way for the return of figures such as Steve Bannon, the former Donald Trump adviser, and Katie Hopkins, the rightwing UK commentator. Musk has already reinstated Trump’s account although the ex-US president has yet to use it since being allowed back on Twitter.