Twitter: Elon Musk says he is fighting ‘a battle for the future of civilisation’ against Apple

The Twitter social media app displaying a tweet by Elon Musk on a mobile phone (PA) (PA Wire)
The Twitter social media app displaying a tweet by Elon Musk on a mobile phone (PA) (PA Wire)

Elon Musk says he has launched a “revolution” and a “battle for the future of civilisation” against Apple and Tim Cook.

Mr Musk’s comments came after he claimed that Apple had threatened to keep Twitter out of the App Store, and suggested that doing so would be limiting freedom of speech.

He complained that Apple could stop people downloading the app, that it had pulled its ad spend amid fears over the future of the platform, and that it is able to take a cut out of any payments made through iPhone apps.

But he insisted that his fight with Tim Cook’s company was about more than just Twitter revenues. Instead, he said that it is “a battle for the future of civilization”. “If free speech is lost even in America, tyranny is all that lies ahead,” he wrote on Twitter.

He also claimed that his fight with Apple was a “revolution against online censorship in America”.

Mr Musk’s recent volley of complaints against Apple began on Monday, when he started tweeting about the company and its App Store policies. Twitter must act in accordance with those policies or be removed from the App Store, which would make all iPhone users unable to download the app.

“Apple has mostly stopped advertising on Twitter. Do they hate free speech in America?” his first post read. He followed that up with a reply in which he tagged chief executive Tim Cook and asked “what’s going on here”.

Many advertisers have pulled out of paying for posts on Twitter, amid fears that doing so is “high-risk” because of an influx of problematic content and concerns that it will not be taken down. Apple is among Twitter’s biggest advertisers, many of whom have either reduced or completely suspended spending on the site.

He then went on to suggest again that Apple’s advertising spend was the result of an opposition to free speech. “Apple should publish all censorship actions it has taken that affect its customers”, he wrote, offering his Twitter followers a poll to communicate whether they agreed.

At the time of publication, a vast majority had voted “yes”. Mr Musk has used a number of polls in recent days – asking in the past whether Donald Trump should come back on the platform and whether he should offer a “general amnesty” for banned accounts – which have always agreed with his view.

An hour later, he posted that “Apple has also threatened to withhold Twitter from its App Store, but won’t tell us why”. Apple’s rules allow it to remove apps that include problematic content – which it has done so before with other social networks such as Parler – though Mr Cook has publicly expressed hope that the same would not need to happen with Twitter.

Just a few minutes after that, he attacked the cut that Apple takes from any apps that are sold through the App Store, or subscriptions that are sold on the iPhone. “Did you know Apple puts a secret 30% tax on everything you buy through their App Store?” Mr Musk wrote.

Apple has defended that 30 per cent cut, arguing that it pays for services such as payment processing and moderation of what apps are available on the store. It has been opposed by companies including Epic, which began a major and high-profile court case when it attempted to circumvent the fee.

Mr Musk may be attacking that cut because it will be charged when users buy his new $8 “Twitter Blue” service on an iPhone. He has seemingly looked to boost subscriptions to that service, in part to offset the reduction of money from advertisers concerned about the future of Twitter.