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Musk’s Approach to Free Speech Could Risk Twitter’s Access to App Stores

S.J. Steinhardt
Published Date:
Nov 22, 2022

Twitter’s loosening of restrictions under new owner Elon Musk runs the risk of getting the service ousted from Apple and Google, Fast Company reported.

The effective “deplatforming” of the pioneering social media service could occur if the two big online stores—the Apple App Store and Google  Play— determine that Twitter violates each one’s terms of service. A smaller service, such as the Amazon Appstore, could also play a role.

Apple’s developer guidelines state that apps may not include certain objectionable content, including comments on users’ “religion, race, sexual orientation, gender, [or] national/ethnic origin.” Google Play prohibits sexual content, hate speech, bullying, and harassment, as does Amazon Appstore.

There are signs that Musk is already chancing those risks. As “the one calling the shots,” in the words of Yael Roth, Twitter’s former head of trust and safety, Musk reactivated the Twitter accounts of former President Donald Trump, who was permanently suspended after the Jan. 6 Capitol riots, and Kanye West, who tweeted antisemitic tropes. He also reactivated two accounts that had been suspended for anti-trans posts.

Fast Company reported that Phil Schiller, the head of Apple’s App Store, has deactivated his Twitter account, which could be viewed as a bad sign for Twitter.

But Fast Company also pointed out that Apple has been inconsistent in enforcing its app policy. While Tumblr was recently forced to make some adult content inaccessible on its iOS app in order to remain in the App Store, when Twitter acquired the now-dormant video-hosting service Vine in 2013, it was “full of porn," in seeming violation of the store’s content policies. Vine eventually added a 17+ rating.