Elon Musk went to bed on Sunday tweeting a photo of the guns he has on his nightstand and it has risen this Monday shooting against Apple. The new owner of Twitter has decided to launch a campaign of harassment against the technology giant from his account on the social network. The trigger has been the withdrawal of advertising by the manufacturer of the iPhone, something that in fact most of the big advertisers have done, partly because of the fear that hate speech will be installed on the network and partly because Musk has fired the sales team and there is no way to effectively develop a campaign. But the tycoon shows that he is willing to use the pulpit given to him by his almost 120 million followers to declare war on those who oppose him.
Musk has linked one message after another against the company that Tim Cook runs. “Apple has pretty much stopped advertising on Twitter. Do you hate free speech in America? has tweeted. and has added: “What’s going on here, Tim Cook?” Elon Musk proclaims himself an “absolutist of freedom of expression” and as soon as he took control of the social network, racist, anti-Semitic, xenophobic, sexist and incitement to violence messages shot up. Advertisers have fled in droves. The hot-tempered Musk threatened to “name and shame” companies that have suspended their advertising if the situation continued. He referred to that threat as a “thermonuclear” bomb. And now he has embarked on the path of “war”, according to himself.
Willing to turn his followers against Apple, he has also launched a survey: “Should Apple publish all the censorship actions it has taken and that affect its customers?”, is the question. Hundreds of thousands of users have voted, with an overwhelming victory for Yes.
In his attack on Apple, the 51-year-old tycoon born in Pretoria (South Africa) has not been satisfied with criticizing the withdrawal of advertising. In a series of messages he has also attacked the commercial policy of his application store. “Did you know that Apple applies a secret tax of 30% to everything you buy through its App Store?”, He has written. “Apple has also threatened to remove Twitter from its App Store, but won’t tell us why,” he tweeted in another message. And in reference to that is how he declares himself willing to take the path of war.
Twitter has little to gain in a war with Apple, which has so far ignored Musk and kept quiet in response. If hate speech spreads through the social network to the point that the Apple company decides to remove its application from its phones, tablets and computers, it would be a very hard blow for Twitter. Of course, daring as Musk is, he has also threatened to launch his own phones if that were to happen.
The tycoon has also tried to justify breaking promises he made about content policy. Apparently it was a matter of money. He was willing to go slow and make no changes so advertisers would stick around. But since the advertisers have left, he has unilaterally broken his promises. And now, he has taken the step of pushing for advertising to come back.
Musk initially assured that he would create a content council and that he would not make relevant decisions until he heard its opinion. He later went on to say that Twitter’s “strong commitment” to content moderation remained “absolutely unchanged.” But then he decided to take to the bush and act on his behalf, sometimes appealing to polls among Twitter users, to make a clean sweep and establish new guidelines. Twitter will allow racist and hateful messages as long as they do not cross legal boundaries, but will give them less visibility, he announced in a confusing statement online. It will do so message by message and will not suspend the accounts of those who regularly spread them. That policy is applied in the United States, while the billionaire has not announced any initiative to defend freedom of expression in dictatorships and countries where it is most threatened, including China, where his electric car manufacturer Tesla has a good part of its market.
In parallel, Musk has rehabilitated the account of former President Donald Trump and has decided to declare a “general amnesty” for the suspended accounts. At the same time, the chaos created by impersonations and companies run by impostors who were awarded the certification mark by Musk has also scared off advertisers.
According to a report published last Tuesday, Twitter has lost half of its top 100 advertisers in less than a month. Some (such as Chevrolet, Chipotle, Ford, Merck, and Novartis) have declared it openly, but many more have simply stopped inserting ads without saying anything. Among these companies are giants such as American Express, AT&T, Coca-Cola, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Dell, Diageo, Chanel, Heineken, HP, Meta, Marriott, Nestle, Verizon or Wells Fargo. Some other major advertisers haven’t pulled out entirely, but they have slowed the pace of investment.
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