Elon Musk, owner of X (formerly known as Twitter), and Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, are embroiled in a heated dispute concerning advertising on the social media platform and Apple’s App Store commissions. The strained relationship has amplified over differences in viewpoints, notably concerning freedom of expression and economic dynamics within the tech industry.
Tensions Rise Over Freedom of Expression
Cook expressed his reservations about Apple’s continued promotion of its products on Musk’s social media platform, stating, “There are some things I don’t like.” This statement was in response to allegations by civil rights organizations in the Jewish community, accusing X of consistently promoting anti-Semitic and hateful content.
Despite Musk’s repeated denials of promoting such content and his self-proclaimed advocacy for freedom of expression, he draws a line at the “freedom of reach.” This means that while users are allowed to post any content, it does not guarantee promotion or visibility in users’ feeds.
The recent spat over content moderation is just one of many disagreements between the two billionaires, who have sparred in public discourse on multiple occasions.
App Store and Online Purchase Commissions at the Heart of Dispute
Another contentious issue centers around the way Apple manages access to applications, including X, and the online purchases made through them. Musk believes that Apple’s dominant position, under Cook’s leadership, must be challenged and usurped by other market players.
Musk further contends that the 30% commission fee charged by Apple’s App Store for transactions and micro-purchases integrated into platforms using it as a gateway to reach customers is excessive. This not only significantly reduces X’s profits but also raises subscription prices for X Premium, potentially dissuading customers from investing in the platform.
Musk previously attempted to engage Cook in discussions to change this policy or make an exception for X. When X introduced a program to pay content creators, Musk vowed to speak with Apple’s CEO about shifting the 30% commission fee from monthly subscribers to 30% of X’s monthly earnings for this purpose. However, his efforts were in vain, and Cook remained unyielding. This presents a significant hurdle for Musk’s vision of transforming X from a mere social media platform into an all-encompassing super app, including e-commerce, making it more challenging while adhering to commission quotas.
Advertising on X Sparks Disagreement
Additionally, advertising on X is another source of contention between Musk and Cook. While Cook acknowledges the importance of promoting Apple’s content on the platform, Musk has previously confronted Apple’s intent to cease advertising on X a few months after the Australian entrepreneur acquired Twitter.
In November 2022, Apple was among the companies that discontinued advertising on the social network. At that time, Musk posted a provocative message directed at Cook, “Apple has essentially stopped advertising on Twitter. Do they hate freedom of expression in the United States? What’s happening here, @tim_cook?” queried the entrepreneur.
As tensions escalate, the ongoing feud between Elon Musk and Tim Cook continues to make waves in the tech industry, with potential consequences for X and the broader online marketplace. The clash between these two tech moguls highlights the challenges and conflicts inherent in the ever-evolving digital landscape.