🔒 Apple could raise the sceptre of an App store ban for X as Elon Musk allows Alex Jones’ return to the platform – Dave Lee

In a bold move, Elon Musk’s reinstatement of controversial figure Alex Jones on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, risks pushing the platform to the brink of an Apple App Store ban. With Jones’ history of spreading misinformation and hatred, Musk’s celebration of his return, alongside a dubious guest list, has prompted major advertisers, including Apple, to “pause” on X. As Musk flirts with the platform’s dangerous elements, Apple faces the pressing question of when X becomes too perilous for its users and its corporate principles.

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Apple Is Holding the Final Nail for X’s Coffin: Dave Lee

By Dave Lee

With the reinstatement of Alex Jones on X this week, Elon Musk is playing with fire. Precedent suggests X is teetering on the brink of a ban for violating Apple Inc.’s App Store rules, which would be the final nail in the coffin for the platform formerly known as Twitter. Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook will be watching closely and hoping desperately it doesn’t come to that.

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Jones reappeared on X over the weekend, brought back by Musk after polling his followers. His return comes five years after Jones’ mix of chaotic and toxic misinformation and hatred was deemed too much for Twitter and several other tech platforms. In the time since, Jones has mostly faded from the mainstream, only making the news when a judge ordered him to pay $1.5 billion to the families of children murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. Jones had claimed the massacre was a staged plot using actors. 

To celebrate the return of such a man, Musk joined Jones in a live audio chat on Sunday. Other attendees included Andrew Tate, who faces rape and sex-trafficking charges, and Republican presidential hopeful Vivek Ramaswamy, who last week rattled off a raft of unfounded conspiracy theories on the debate stage. With saner minds abandoning X, this is the clientele that’s left.

Apple’s marketing team clearly wants no part of it. It’s among the companies that have decided to “pause” advertising on the platform, having previously been its biggest spender. While not mentioned directly, Apple was implied among the group — along with Disney, Walmart and others — that Musk recently told to go f— themselves.

But Apple holds an even greater power than that. Having decided X is too dangerous for its brand, the reinstatement of Jones now forces it to confront a bigger question: When does X become too dangerous for Apple’s users? Or when do Apple’s supposed corporate principles demand it no longer take the 30% it enjoys from sign-ups to X’s premium services? (The company did not respond to a request for comment.)

Apple has answered this question before. Jones’s InfoWars app was banned from the App Store in 2018. His content, the company said at the time, fell afoul of “defamatory, discriminatory, or mean-spirited content, including references or commentary about religion, race, sexual orientation, gender, national/ethnic origin, or other targeted groups, particularly if the app is likely to humiliate, intimidate, or place a targeted individual or group in harm’s way.” The company did not specify which specific material had forced it to act. The ban appears to remain in place today.

Apple has also moved to block entire platforms when deemed necessary, such as when it removed the right-wing Twitter-clone Parler in 2021 in the wake of the riots at the US Capitol. Users on the platform, Apple noted, had “encouraged violence, denigrated various ethnic groups, races and religions, glorified Nazism, and called for violence against specific people.” The app was later reinstated, but only after several months and following significant changes to how it moderated posts. Apple was also under pressure from Republican lawmakers who criticized the move as being opposed to free speech.

The fallout would be several magnitudes greater were Apple to take any action against X. But on its current trajectory — with Musk himself amplifying some of the platform’s most vicious elements — there will come a time when inaction would be just as damaging to Apple.

Musk’s support of Jones will presumably extend to allowing him to broadcast live on the platform. Indeed, he’s probably eager to see it happen, even though embracing Jones means taking on a huge level of risk. Jones’ business model is simple: get attention. To earn it, he must become more and more shocking. It’s surely only a matter of time before he takes it too far.

Any block would draw outrage from the right but also likely from a significant segment on the left: During two significant global conflicts, limiting access to the app would cause consternation among those for whom X still has important utility. But Apple isn’t the internet, and its first obligation is to its users. X would still be accessible through a mobile browser on the open internet, and Apple has its own free speech right to do as it sees fit.

According to Musk, Apple has already threatened to withhold the X app for undisclosed reasons. It does this kind of thing often: In 2022, Apple said it had blocked or removed almost 2 million apps for falling short of its safety, privacy and quality standards. Through his own actions, Musk has now made X more likely to become one of them.

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