Twitter owner Elon Musk pledged to build new phones to compete with Apple and Google‘s devices if they try to wall his social media platform out of their app stores, escalating a competitive threat to the prominent tech titans’ power posed by the billionaire tycoon.
Opponents of Mr. Musk’s decisions to relax speech restrictions on Twitter have clamored for Apple and Google to challenge his actions by threatening to enforce rules for hosting the social media platform in their app stores featured on smartphones and other devices.
Mr. Musk said Monday that Apple has warned that it may kick Twitter out.
“Apple has also threatened to withhold Twitter from its App Store, but won’t tell us why,” he tweeted.
When asked by Jake Kastrenakes of the Verge whether Apple was using its App Store as leverage “or otherwise making moderation demands,” Mr. Musk replied “yes.”
Conservative commentator Liz Wheeler said on Twitter that Mr. Musk should make his own phones if Apple and Google boot his app from their stores.
“Half the country would happily ditch the biased, snooping iPhone & Android,” Ms. Wheeler tweeted. “The man builds rockets to Mars, a silly little smartphone should be easy, right?”
“I certainly hope it does not come to that, but, yes, if there is no other choice, I will make an alternative phone,” Mr. Musk replied on Friday.
Mr. Musk escalated his feud with Apple on Monday, publishing a flurry of tweets questioning Apple’s censorship practices, fees, and advertising decisions. He pressed Apple CEO Tim Cook on Twitter to explain the company’s choice to lessen its advertising on the social media site.
“Apple has mostly stopped advertising on Twitter,” Mr. Musk tweeted Monday. “Do they hate free speech in America?”
While Apple and Google have not overtly challenged the SpaceX and Tesla CEO’s management of Twitter, Mr. Musk‘s detractors are itching for the tech behemoths to intervene against his authority.
Yoel Roth exited Twitter as its head of safety and integrity and subsequently promoted Apple and Google‘s power over his former employer. He wrote an opinion article for The New York Times detailing his departure and touting Apple and Google as presenting the “most significant check on unrestrained speech on the mainstream internet.”
“Twitter will have to balance its new owner’s goals against the practical realities of life on Apple and Google‘s internet — no easy task for the employees who have chosen to remain,” Mr. Roth wrote.
Others favoring more restrictive speech rules for Twitter have echoed the call for Apple and Google to consider new action. Harvard Law cyberlaw clinic instructor Alejandra Caraballo told The Washington Post that Apple and Google need to seriously explore taking Twitter off their app stores.
There is precedent for Big Tech companies banishing an insurgent social media platform — Apple and Google previously enforced their rules to remove Parler.
Parler’s upstart service gained popularity among those fed up with mainstream social media websites, but Apple and Google dealt the company a destructive blow by removing Parler’s app from their digital stores following the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol last year.
Apple restored Parler to its App Store in April 2021, and Google allowed its return in September 2022.
Twitter‘s new owner does not want to face the same fight, and Mr. Musk has slammed Apple and Google over antitrust concerns. He has amplified criticisms of the big tech companies’ market power and blasted the dominance of Apple and Google.
“App store fees are obviously too high due to the iOS/Android duopoly,” Mr. Musk said in a tweet earlier this month. “It is a hidden 30% tax on the Internet.”
Mr. Musk has made no public plans for a new device or app store to compete with Apple and Google yet, but he has hinted at developing a new app he has dubbed “X” that may challenge big tech companies’ products.
Before completing his takeover of Twitter, Mr. Musk answered “X.com” when asked in August 2022 whether he would consider creating his own social platform.
As he moved toward completing his deal for Twitter in October, he said buying Twitter was a step toward building X.
“Buying Twitter is an accelerant to creating X, the everything app,” he said last month.
Apple and Google did not respond to requests for comment Monday.