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Elon Musk goes to war with Apple over App Store fees, moderation

Elon Musk is going to war with Apple (AAPL). The Tesla (TSLA) CEO and new head of Twitter took to his social media platform on Monday to call out the iPhone maker for pulling back on advertising on the site and called out Apple for its 30% App Store fees.

In a series of tweets, Musk accused Apple of suppressing speech by requiring apps in its store to abide by certain content standards and questioned whether or not the company hates free speech in America. In one tweet, Musk specifically tagged Apple CEO Tim Cook’s Twitter account.

According to Musk, Apple has stopped most of its advertising on Twitter. If true, Apple wouldn’t necessarily be alone in choosing to pull back ads on Twitter. Companies ranging from GM and VW to General Mills and Eli Lilly have either slowed ad spending on the platform or stopped advertising on the social network entirely in the weeks since Musk’s chaotic takeover.

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Musk also responded to a tweet by The Verge’s deputy editor Jake Kastrenakes saying that Apple is threatening to remove Twitter from the App Store if it doesn’t abide by the tech giant’s moderation demands.

It’s not unheard of for Apple to pull apps from the App Store, either. In 2021, the company suspended the Parler app for not moderating user content including what it said at the time were threats of violence. Apple eventually reinstated the app after Parler agreed to better moderate content.

The mercurial Musk went on to claim that Apple puts a “secret 30% tax” on items consumers purchase through the App Store. Apple’s App Store fee policy has been public knowledge for years. It was also the subject of an antitrust suit Epic filed against Apple in 2021.

Musk’s stab at Apple’s App Store fees comes as he attempts to pivot the company away from relying heavily on advertising and more toward subscription services. Of Twitter’s $5.1 billion in total 2021 revenue, $4.5 billion came from advertising.

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Musk has already attempted to change to a subscription model by revamping Twitter Blue, which allowed users to purchase verification badges. But that blew up when trolls bought badges to masquerade as companies and celebrities ranging from Lebron James to Nestlé.

If, however, Musk could get his subscription plans off the ground, he’d run headlong into Apple’s 30% fee. In other words, Musk would end up having to fork over 30% of every subscription purchase customers made via the App Store to Apple.

Apple isn’t the first company Musk has tangled with since purchasing Twitter for $44 billion in October. According to the Financial Times, he reached out to a number of advertisers and criticized them for cutting back on their ads on the social network.

Musk’s attacks on Apple are a dangerous move, as well. Twitter needs Apple to ensure that its services are available to the hardware maker’s more than 1 billion active iOS devices. Without Apple, Twitter would suffer a significant setback in terms of available users.

For now, Musk’s feud appears to be rather one-sided. And there’s no telling if it will continue to escalate or simply die out. But from the looks of one tweet in which he used an image to imply he is going to war with the company, this likely isn’t the last we’ve heard in this dust up.

Yahoo Finance reached out to Apple for comment and will update this article if it responds.

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Got a tip? Email Daniel Howley at dhowley@yahoofinance.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley.

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