Musk is waging war on Apple. Republicans are joining in.
New Twitter owner Elon Musk escalated his attacks against Apple on Monday, accusing the tech giant of scaling back advertising on the platform and of threatening to pull it from its App Store.
Joining him in his battle against the behemoth? Congressional Republicans.
In a flurry of tweets, Musk questioned whether Apple hates “free speech” for “mostly” halting its Twitter advertising, accused the company of censoring developers and likened the tech giant’s grip on the app store market to a monopoly.
Musk also claimed Apple had “threatened to withhold Twitter from its App Store” without explanation and sharply criticized the 30 percent commission fee it takes from many developers. By doing so, Musk waged war on Twitter’s top advertiser, as my colleagues Cat Zakrzewski, Faiz Siddiqui and Jeremy B. Merrill reported.
Apple did not return a request for comment. But when asked about the prospect of removing Twitter from the Apple App Store in a Nov. 15 interview, CEO Tim Cook replied, “They say that they are going to continue to moderate and so … I count on them to do that.”
Musk’s tweets resonated with Republicans on Capitol Hill, who hammered Apple last year for suspending right-leaning social network Parler over concerns about its content moderation efforts and some of whom have backed bills to rein in the tech giant’s app store practices.
Sen. Mike Lee (Utah), the top Republican on the Senate’s antitrust subcommittee, called Apple’s purported threat to yank Twitter “unacceptable” and said it “makes the case for the Open App Markets Act.”
The proposal, which has advanced out of committee in the House and Senate but has yet to clear either chamber, would prohibit major app store providers from requiring that developers carry their payment processing systems and from giving their own apps preferential treatment.
Sen. Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.), the lead Republican sponsor of the bill in the chamber, said in a statement to The Technology 202 that “Apple’s alleged threat to remove Twitter from its App Store further proves we must rein in big tech.”
Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), who is leading the bill in the House, echoed the sentiment:
The jabs could foreshadow greater scrutiny of Apple and Google for moderation practices managing their app stores, particularly next Congress in a GOP-controlled House.
Last year, House Republicans railed against the two tech giants over their treatment of Parler, a right-leaning social network that bills itself as the “global free speech app” and that became a popular hub for 2020 election deniers. Both Apple and Google eventually reinstated Parler to their app stores, but in their tech accountability platform for next Congress, House GOP leaders signaled their desire to keep probing the app store issues by vowing to “[e]xplore Apple and Google’s app store policies, including how their decisions to remove or host certain apps limits or increases consumer choice.”
Musk’s allegations are likely to revive GOP complaints that Apple is targeting social networks with more lax content moderation policies and squelching free speech.
In a recent op-ed, Twitter’s former head of safety Yoel Roth wrote that “representatives of the app stores regularly raised concerns about content available on our platform,” and that as he “departed the company, the calls from the app review teams had already begun.”
“Failure to adhere to Apple’s and Google’s guidelines would be catastrophic, risking Twitter’s expulsion from their app stores and making it more difficult for billions of potential users to get Twitter’s services,” he wrote. “This gives Apple and Google enormous power to shape the decisions Twitter makes.”
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The letters come as lawmakers and federal regulators brace for further fallout in the wake of cryptocurrency exchange FTX’s collapse. Congress is set to convene hearings on cryptocurrency, with Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chairman Rostin Behnam set to testify at a Senate agriculture committee hearing Thursday. The House Financial Services Committee is holding a hearing two weeks later, and it’s not clear if FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried will testify.
Google and iHeartMedia agree to pay $9 million to settle allegations over smartphone testimonials
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“Google and iHeartMedia paid influencers to promote products they never used, showing a blatant disrespect for truth-in-advertising rules,” FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection Director Samuel Levine said.
iHeartMedia declined to comment to the Wall Street Journal. Google spokesman Jose Castañeda told the outlet that Google takes “compliance with advertising laws seriously” and has systems to make sure it follows regulations.
Irish regulator fines Meta $277 million after scraping investigation
Ireland’s Data Protection Commission (DPC) said Facebook parent Meta violated parts of Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation, the Associated Press’s Kelvin Chan reports. The regulator opened an investigation after reports last year about a trove of data from Facebook accounts were found online. Meta said the data was obtained after someone “scraped” Facebook using its tools for finding friends by importing contacts or phone numbers.
Meta told the AP that it fully cooperated with the DPC and is “still reviewing this decision carefully.” The company also said it “made changes to our systems during the time in question, including removing the ability to scrape our features in this way using phone numbers.” It added that “unauthorized data scraping is unacceptable and against our rules.”
Rant and rave
Twitter users discussed Musk’s war on Apple. Editor Jeremy C. Owens:
Our colleague, Joseph Menn:
It is so reckless to use your own platform to attack Tim Cook when he has the power to put a U2 diss track into every phone.— Joseph Menn (@josephmenn) November 28, 2022
Editor Alex Heath:
Inside the industry
- Deputy national security adviser Anne Neuberger, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R), National Institute of Standards and Technology Director Laurie Locascio and other officials speak at the Quantum World Congress in Washington on Wednesday and Thursday.
- A Senate Finance Committee panel holds a hearing on the digital economy’s trade policy opportunities and challenges on Wednesday at 3 p.m.
- Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chairman Rostin Behnam testifies at a Senate agriculture committee hearing on lessons from the collapse of FTX on Thursday at 10 a.m.