Elon Musk, whose tenure as head of social media platform Twitter has already been capturing headlines across the world, ignited a new controversy Monday. In a series of posts on Twitter, Musk called Apple out for withdrawing advertising from Twitter and supposedly taking an anti-free speech stance.
Musk Tries to Take a Bite Out of Apple
In a tweet storm that lasted a quarter hour on Monday evening, Elon Musk directed a series of pointed questions at Tim Cook, CEO of tech giant Apple (AAPL). According to Musk, Apple is weighing whether to limit downloads of the application from its proprietary App Store, which would presumably prevent large swathes of potential new users from joining the social media platform. Furthermore, Musk is also contending that Apple has reduced advertising on Twitter, and even went so far as to ask whether the most valuable publicly-traded company on Earth hates ‘free speech in America.’
It seems that since taking the helm at Twitter last month, following a controversial acquisition deal the path to which was paved with myriad ups and downs, Musk has set his sights on a public battle with Apple. The latter firm has a large amount of leverage over Twitter due to the reach of its App Store and proprietary devices used by tweeters across the globe to access the platform.
One of Musk’s main bones of contention with Apple’s executive suite is the cut due to the latter from subscription revenue. Musk has stated in the past that his vision for Twitter includes moving from over-reliance on ad sales to raising more revenue from user subscriptions. However, nearly a third of money earned from Twitter subscriptions could be set to go directly into Apple’s coffers.
Musk’s recent comments regarding Apple, at times even veering into warlike metaphor, hit just as Apple’s much-maligned App Store policies could be debated in the United States Congress as part of a series of proposed antitrust laws. Furthermore, Apple stock dropped 2.6% on Monday, perhaps due to an expected production shortfall of 6 million iPhones. While Musk is most likely far from the only figure in the American tech industry hoping for App Store fees to be lowered by hook or by crook, his tweets may have gained additional traction due to the past month of headlines coming out of Twitter’s headquarters.
New ‘Chief Twit’ in Town?
Elon Musk’s management style, which has already raised eyebrows in the past at Tesla (TSLA) and SpaceX, doesn’t seem to have been moderated by time. While some may be wondering if the decisions taken by the world’s richest man over the past month may eventually lead to a tighter ship, the hard line Musk has been taking has already had the effect of a significant thinning-out of the payroll at Twitter.
According to some estimates, the number of Twitter employees has already been reduced by more than half since October, when Musk acquired the company for $54.20 per share. Those whose employment has been terminated by Musk include one of the firm’s top sales executives, content moderators, and more. While these layoffs could reduce Twitter’s outlay by over $800 million, Musk’s tough-guy management style, demanding high intensity and output from workers, has also been leading to a wave of employees quitting, making the near-term prospects for the firm’s workforce unclear at this point.
Twitter is at a crossroads at the moment. Even before the acquisition, the microblogging site was struggling with over half a billion dollars worth of debt, carrying with it significant interest payments to be made. With advertisers seemingly wavering on whether to continue their partnerships with Twitter, and the direction in which Musk is set to take the firm far from transparent, the possibility that the company may, in the end, see fit to file for bankruptcy seems to be growing. How one of the tech world’s biggest stories will develop as we move toward the end of 2022 remains to be seen.