Apple is the biggest advertiser on Twitter, but Elon Musk is picking an attention-seeking public feud with Apple, though all of Musk’s tweets on the topic are plainly labeled as being sent from an iPhone.

Super balanced oligarch Elon Musk started his Monday morning yesterday as a totally normal one, first tweeting a 2 a.m. picture of “My bedside table” featuring a gun without a trigger. Shortly before 7 a.m. Musk tweeted (and then deleted, but you can still find it online) the meme below showing road signs saying “Pay 30%” and “Go To War,” and a car labeled “Elon” as breaking towards the “Go To War” direction.

Image: Twitter via

If this makes little sense to you, the New York Times explains Musk’s emerging conflict with Apple, and one that paid apps have been grappling with for years: The Apple App store keeps 30% of the revenue that apps make on that platform. As Musk is dealing with a massive advertiser exodus, and his laying off more than half of the company is creating technical glitches galore, Musk’s financial desperation has him targeting that 30% fee as he hopes to pivot the company to a paid-subscription model. He then claimed without evidence that “Apple has also threatened to withhold Twitter from its App Store, but won’t tell us why,” and bemoaned that “Apple has mostly stopped advertising on Twitter. Do they hate free speech in America?” (Though Apple remains a regular advertiser on Twitter).  

Yet you can’t help but be amused, as you'll see if you view this content on the Twitter platform, that all of Musk’s tweet-declarations of a supposed “war” on Apple are clearly marked as being sent via “Twitter for iPhone.”  

Meanwhile, Musk’s right-wing echo chamber of fanboys are also piling onto Apple, oblivious to the “Twitter for iPhone” mark accompanies all of their tweets when viewed directly on the Twitter platform.

And the above response from Tim Cook is fake, but it is funny, as it mimics Musk’s “now pay $8” demand that he was tweeting before the $8 check-mark system was too botched to roll out.

On the 30% App Store fee, this is not news, it’s been the case for years, and both Google and Apple do it. But it’s particularly problematic for Musk’s vision of Twitter. As the Times explains, “His business plan is predicated on shifting its revenue from a dependence on advertising to a greater reliance on subscription sales. But any new subscription revenue will be subject to Apple’s practice of taking as much as a 30 percent cut.”  

And in terms of lost advertising revenue, the Washington Post reports today that Apple is Twitter’s biggest advertiser. “In the first quarter [of 2022], Apple was the top advertiser on Twitter, spending $48 million on ads on the social network,” the Post reports. “Apple’s spending accounted for more than 4 percent of Twitter’s revenue that quarter.”

So it seems unwise to pick a public spat with one’s largest advertiser. But wisdom has never been Musk's strong point, and Apple CEO Tim Cook, despite the provocation, has ignored the whole brouhaha and remained silent.

While Musk is framing Twitter’s faltering advertising revenue as “a battle for the future of civilization,” the anonymous post on Blind above points to another possible explanation: Twitter’s advertising platform allegedly doesn’t work in the aftermath of mass layoffs of support staff. “I had my team keep our campaigns live for 2 weeks post-takeover on the bet that efficiency would improve with fewer advertisers and the risks were managed and probably overblown," an anonymous ad manager writes. “I was wrong and I think the things we saw in these last 2 weeks means many more advertisers will bail on the platform in the coming weeks.”

It also should be noted that Apple has incited war with a social media platform before, but it was over privacy concerns. You may recall that in January 2019, Apple disabled an internal app used by Facebook employees, causing them to get locked out of offices and more. Apple did this, revoking security certificates for the app, after a TechCrunch report about a market research app the company had been using to track the internet use of teenagers. What's to stop Apple from doing something similar over concerns about lack of content moderation or incitements of civil war, and the like, on Musk's new free-for-all Twitter.

So as Twitter continues struggling to pay its bills, expect more wars to be declared against Twitter's creditors, and expect to see it framed as "a battle for the future of civilization."

Related: Elon Musk Now Stiffing Vendors, Not Paying Bills at Twitter [SFist]

Image: NEWCASTLE-UNDER-LYME, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 21: The Twitter account of Elon Musk is displayed on a smartphone with a Twitter logo in the background on November 21, 2022 in Newcastle Under Lyme, England. (Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)