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Elon Musk picks fight with Apple over ad spending, free speech commitment

Elon Musk accused Apple of threatening to block Twitter Inc. from its app store and says the iPhone maker has stopped advertising on the social media platform because it is afraid of free speech.

In a series of tweets on Monday, the billionaire CEO of Twitter and Tesla accused the smartphone maker of no longer advertising on Twitter, insinuating it is because the company is trying to censor content on the internet.

"Apple has mostly stopped advertising on Twitter. Do they hate free speech in America?" Musk said.

Later in the day, he also said Apple is considering removing Twitter from its app store, without providing any evidence of that.

Apple has also threatened to withhold Twitter from its App Store, but won’t tell us why


He later tagged Apple CEO Tim Cook's Twitter account in another tweet, asking "What's going on here?"

Although Apple has said nothing about any such plan, it would not be without precedent. The company routinely enforced its rules on to third-party apps in its app store, a policy that led to the removal of apps such as Gab and Parler, which is popular with U.S. conservatives.

Parler was restored by Apple in 2021 after the app updated its content and moderation practices, the companies said at the time.

War of words

Musk also said "yes" in response to a user question on whether Apple was threatening Twitter's presence in the app store or making moderation demands.

Apple did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The company spent an estimated $131,600 US on Twitter ads between Nov. 10 and Nov. 16, down from $220,800 US between Oct. 16 and Oct. 22, the week before Musk closed the Twitter deal, according to ad measurement firm Pathmatics.

A rising list of firms from General Mills Inc. to luxury automaker Audi of America have stopped or paused advertising on Twitter since the acquisition.

Musk, a self-described free speech absolutist, said earlier this month that Twitter had seen a "massive" drop in revenue and blamed activist groups for pressuring advertisers. Ad sales account for about 90 per cent of Twitter's revenue.

The platform has in the past few days reinstated the account of former U.S. President Donald Trump, as well as comedian Kathy Griffin and U.S. House Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene.

The Trump reinstatement prompted a coalition of civil rights activists to say last week that they were urging Twitter's advertisers to issue statements about pulling their ads off the platform.

At a presentation for advertisers in May, some ad agencies and brands were already skeptical on concerns that Musk would scale back content moderation and security protection on the platform.