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Elon Musk announces ‘war’ with Apple over censorship, 30% App Store tax

Elon Musk. (Jerome Adamstein/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
November 28, 2022

Billionaire Twitter owner Elon Musk railed against Apple on Monday in a series of tweets alleging the tech company promotes censorship, and suggested he would “go to war” rather than pay fees related to its App Store.

The anti-Apple rant comes as Musk works to loosen speech restrictions on his recently acquired social network, and after recent years that have seen Apple take heat over its huge market power and submission to Chinese censorship mandates.

Musk kicked things off by saying Apple had mostly stopped advertising on Twitter, adding, “Do they hate free speech in America?” Later, he asserted that “Apple has also threatened to withhold Twitter from its App Store, but won’t tell us why.”

If Apple has decreased its Twitter advertising, they join a long list of companies who have pulled back ad spending since Musk’s ownership began last month, as reported by NPR. The authenticity of Musk’s claims remains unclear.

Musk also took the opportunity to slam the 30 percent cut that Apple takes from developers’ sales on its App Store, which he has criticized previously. He called it a “secret 30% tax” and posted a meme indicating he would “go to war” rather than pay it.

He called the fee a “hidden 30% tax on the internet” as recently as Nov. 18 and also criticized it last summer.

On the issue of free speech, the makers of a system that powers the video sharing network Odysee told Musk that Apple had “demanded” their apps filter certain search results or else they’d be delisted from the App Store. The developers said Apple had “disallowed almost anything related to Covid” and objected to users posting images of “Pepe the Frog.”

Musk replied to ask, “What else has Apple censored?” and posted a poll asking whether “Apple should publish all censorship actions it has taken that affect its customers.” An hour after it was posted, 86.3 percent had voted “Yes.”

Apple – which, according to Fortune, makes 90 percent of its products in China – has also been in the hot seat for aiding the Chinese Communist Party’s censorship efforts. 

Among other things, the American tech giant has removed censor-dodging VPN apps in China and agreed to move all Chinese users’ data to China-owned servers, according to 9to5Mac. In 2020, the company made a statement that it has a “respect for human rights,” but remains “required to comply with local laws.”