Elon Musk says Apple threatened to remove Twitter from the App Store

Twitter CEO Elon Musk claimed that Apple threatened to remove the app from its App Store.

Video Transcript

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DAVID BRIGGS: Elon asking, did you know Apple puts a secret 30% tax on everything you buy through their App Store? We did. Then adding a little flavor today, tweeting Apple and Google effectively control access to most of the internet via their app stores. Tech editor Dan Howley here with context on this. Dan, Elon is not the first one to criticize App Store practices. Who else is in line there?

DAN HOWLEY: Yeah, this is an argument that's been going on for-- for years, frankly. This is nothing new. The idea that this tax is secret is mind-boggling unless, you know, Elon wasn't aware of it, which obviously he was. And it's more along the lines of just trying to kind of call them out because he wants to turn Twitter into a subscription model.

And so that would eat into the company's proposed or, I guess, eventual revenue stream if he decides to fully go with that and against advertising. But in addition to Twitter, as you said, there's other companies that have brought this up. Netflix brought it up in the past. Spotify brought it up in the past. Basically, any company-- Epic Games took them to court over antitrust claims about the treatment of "Fortnite" and that 30% fee.

And so, you know, this is-- there's other companies that have gone against Apple and Google, by the way, when it comes to this 30% fee. I think for Musk, there's more to it than just the 30% fee. There's also the idea that Apple could pull the Twitter app from the App Store if he is unable to control the content on there. And look, he says that that's dislike of free speech on Apple's part.

But, you know, frankly, it's Apple's business. And if they want to, they can allow apps in or not, and that's a form of speech on their part, choosing what kind of content to have on the platform and what kind of content they don't want on the platform. So it really is kind of more along the lines of Elon seeming to dislike Apple's position than having any real fight against it.

Now, that's not to say the 30% fee isn't being challenged anywhere else. There's been governments around the world that have gone after Apple and this App Store fee, among them South Korea, which have told Apple, look, you cannot be doing this. There's other countries that have gone after Apple and the fee in certain categories of apps.

And here in the US, we've had lawmakers discuss it and the fact that it does have an outsized effect on what apps are available on different users' phones. You can't get an app on your iPhone without the App Store. Google, you can get an app on an Android phone. But they give you a whole bunch of warnings, and they basically-- it's almost as though they're dissuading you-- or trying to dissuade you from doing so.

So, you know, he's not incorrect about that. But he's not the first person to bring this up. And we haven't seen much action as far as, at least in the US goes, with changes to that 30% fee structure.

JARED BLIKRE: And, Dan, we've seen Elon really kind of pivot to make Twitter the free speech platform. And he's threatened to release the secret censorship history-- maybe you put scare quotes around that, maybe you don't-- about Twitter and some of its dealings with blockages in the past of high-profile people. Just wondering how this particular battle with Apple may fit into that seeming larger strategy.

DAN HOWLEY: Yeah, I mean, look, if he wants to release Twitter's prior decisions, that's entirely up to him. He can say that and do that. He runs Twitter. He owns Twitter. I guess he's the de facto head of the company now until he adds a CEO, which he said he wants to.

As far as Apple goes, they've pulled other apps before based on the type of content they've had. And they've pointed to specifically violence and threats of violence, namely Parler. And it wasn't just Apple that pulled it. It was also Google. It's been reinstated since on the App Store.

They-- basically, they came to an agreement with Apple saying, look, we will moderate some of the content that you find objectionable. But on our other apps and on the web interface, we're going to have whatever we want on there. So they allowed-- are allowed to do whatever kind of free speech they want on their website, where Apple still has the moderation that they've been calling for.

JARED BLIKRE: All right, got to leave it there. But thank you for that report, Dan Howley.