On a collision course with Apple is Elon Musk's Twitter

Apple is Elon Musk's Twitter

Since Elon Musk assumed control of the social media platform last month, he has made significant, though unclear, announcements about its future.

Musk wants to significantly raise the company's subscription income while expanding "free expression" on the website, which in some circumstances appears to entail re-approving accounts like the one used by former president Donald Trump.

However, Musk's ideas for Twitter may put it at odds with Apple and Google, two of the greatest names in technology.

Conflict is escalating

The likelihood that Musk's improvements would break Apple or Google's app policies in a way that slows down the firm or possibly results in its software being removed from app stores is one of the biggest threats to Musk's vision for "Twitter 2.0."

Already, there are developing tensions. Just last week, Musk voiced his displeasure in a tweet about the app store fees that Google and Apple impose on businesses like Twitter.

Musk stated that app store pricing is clearly too high since iOS and Android have a monopoly on the market. "A 30% hidden tax applies to the Internet." In a subsequent post, he made reference to the Department of Justice's antitrust division, which is ostensibly looking into app store regulations.

He is upset about the 15% to 30% cut that Apple and Google take from in-app sales since this might reduce Musk's expectations for $8 per month in revenue from Twitter Blue subscribers.

The former director of Apple's marketing department Phil Schiller, who continues to manage the App Store, is said to have deactivated his popular Twitter account over the weekend, which had hundreds of thousands of followers.

There are indications that since Musk became CEO, Twitter has already experienced an uptick in hazardous information, endangering the company's apps. Shortly after Musk assumed the title of "chief Twit," a rash of internet trolls and bigots deluged the website with hate speech and racial slurs in October.

The trolls banded together on 4chan before storming Twitter with anti-Black and anti-Jewish slurs. According to the nonprofit Network Contagion Research Institute, Twitter suspended several of the accounts.

Musk's plan to charge for blue verification badges has also resulted in confusion and accounts pretending to be well-known brands and people, which has scared off some advertisers from using the social network, particularly Eli Lilly after a fake verified tweet falsely claimed that insulin would be given away for free.

The app shops became aware.

Yoel Roth, the former head of trust and safety at Twitter, stated in last month's New York Times article: "And as I left the business, the calls from the app review teams had already started."

Revenue from fees and subscriptions

Apple and Twitter have been working together for a while. 2011 saw a significant integration of tweets into the iOS operating system by Apple. Under Apple CEO Tim Cook's account, tweets that serve as official corporate messages are frequently published. On Twitter, Apple has promoted new iPhones and significant launch events.

The partnership, though, seems about to alter as Musk makes efforts to increase the percentage of revenue from subscribers.

In 2021, Twitter reported earnings of $5.08 billion. Hundreds of millions of dollars would wind up going to Apple and Google if half of that comes from subscriptions in the future, as Musk has stated is the plan. This would be a tiny sum for them but may be a huge blow to Twitter.

One of Apple's key guidelines is that all digital material, including gaming coins, avatar clothing, premium subscriptions, and other items, must be purchased through the company's in-app payment system, which charges the user directly. Apple retains 30% of revenues, dropping to 15% for subscriptions after a year, and gives the remaining funds to the developer.

As a member of the Coalition for App Fairness, businesses including Epic Games, Spotify, and Match Group advocate against Apple and Google's regulations. Additionally, Microsoft and Meta have criticized the arrangement in court pleadings and in public comments directed at app retailers.

Musk might choose to follow Spotify's example and offer a reduced $9.99 pricing on the web, where Apple doesn't take a share, and then have people log in to their current accounts inside the app. Users that purchase a Premium subscription through the iPhone app pay $12.99, which essentially pays Apple's costs.

Twitter might also take things a step further, similar to how Netflix completely ceased selling memberships through Apple in 2018.

Musk could charge less for Twitter Blue on the company website and notify his 118 million followers via Twitter that Blue is exclusively available on Twitter.com. It might work and spare Apple from paying any costs.

However, it also implies that Twitter would have to eliminate a lot of alternatives for notifying consumers about the subscription inside the app, where they are most likely to make a purchase choice. Apple also has specific guidelines on the websites that apps can link to when informing users of other payment options.

You cannot join Netflix on the app, according to the Netflix app. We are aware of the trouble.

A fight for control over content moderation

Musk must contend with the influence of Apple and Google, who have the authority to refuse to authorize or even remove applications that break their policies about content moderation and hazardous material.

It's been done before. In a letter to Congress last year, Apple said that by 2020, it will have eliminated over 30,000 applications from its store due to offensive material.

According to Roth, a former Twitter director of trust and safety, it could be "catastrophic" if app store-related issues affect Twitter. He pointed out that Twitter cites app screening as a risk factor in SEC filings.

Apps may be removed by Apple and Google for a number of reasons, including security concerns and compliance with platform charging policies. And if Musk tries to roll out new features, app reviews may mess up release dates and generate chaos.

The app stores have begun analyzing user-generated content that starts to veer toward violent speech or social networks with lax content management more carefully in recent years.

There are examples of full prohibitions. In 2020, Apple and Google blocked Parler, a considerably smaller and more conservative website, after content within called for violence and advocated the January 6 incident at the US Capitol. The Official Review Board, overseen by Schiller, the Apple executive who erased his Twitter account over the weekend, decides whether to prohibit well-known apps in Apple's case.

Trump's social networking software Truth Social was authorized by Apple in February but it took longer for Google Play to do the same. In October, Google finally gave the app its approval, stating that it must "delete undesirable content such as those that promote violence."

This month, according to Musk, several of Twitter's contact content moderators were sacked.

When banning applications like Parler, Apple and Google have taken care to focus on particular policy infractions, such as screenshots of the objectionable messages, rather than blaming general political motives or legislative pressure. Finding material that hasn't been reported yet is frequently doable on a social network as big as Twitter.

Even yet, it seems doubtful that Apple and Google would enter a contentious argument about what information is damaging and what isn't. That can wind up generating political discussion and public scrutiny. Instead than threatening to delete programs completely, app stores can only put off approving new versions.

Future additions may potentially irritate Google and Apple, leading to a deeper examination of the platform's existing functioning.

According to the Washington Post, Musk has allegedly discussed letting users to pay for access to user-generated films, which former employees fear may encourage the use of the feature for pornographic content.

Since the company's founding by Steve Jobs, the Apple App Store has never included pornography. Google similarly forbids apps with a sexually explicit focus.

Everything that shouldn't be seen at work should by default be concealed. Twitter already permits pornographic content, which might draw reviewers' attention even more.

Apple's rules state that apps featuring user-generated material or services that are predominantly used for pornographic content "do not belong on the App Store and may be withdrawn without warning."

Musk, though, frequently advances rather than retreats from conflicts. Now he must choose if it is worthwhile to compete against two of Silicon Valley's most valuable and influential firms with over 30% fees and Twitter's capacity to hold controversial posts.

An inquiry for comment from an Apple official was not answered. A Google employee declined to respond. An email to Twitter went unanswered, and the company no longer has a communications division. A tweet wasn't answered by Musk.

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