DeSantis: Congress Should Target Apple Over Alleged Threats to Block Twitter

By Jack Phillips
Jack Phillips
Jack Phillips
Breaking News Reporter
Jack Phillips is a senior reporter for The Epoch Times based in New York. He covers breaking news.
November 29, 2022Updated: November 29, 2022

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and other Republicans this week said that Apple’s alleged threat to remove Twitter from its App Store warrants congressional investigation.

“That would be a huge, huge mistake, and it would be a really raw exercise of monopolistic power that I think would merit a response from the United States Congress,” DeSantis told an audience in Duval County, Florida, on Tuesday.

The “old regime” at Twitter attempted to “suffocate the dissent” in regards to COVID-19 reporting, DeSantis said, adding that Apple is acting as a “vassal of the CCP [Chinese Communist Party]” while using “corporate power in the United States … to suffocate Americans.”

The governor appeared to have been referring to reports that Apple blocked some features of its popular AirDrop service for only Chinese users prior to widespread protests against the regime’s “zero COVID” policies.

The Florida governor was referring to a claim from new Twitter owner Elon Musk’s posts on Monday that Apple, considered the world’s most valuable company, threatened to remove the Twitter app from its App Store. Apple has not yet issued a public comment on the matter, and The Epoch Times has contacted the firm for comment.

“Apple has mostly stopped advertising on Twitter. Do they hate free speech in America?” Musk asked on Twitter. “Apple has also threatened to withhold Twitter from its App Store,” he posted, “but won’t tell us why.” The tech billionaire also directly asked CEO Tim Cook: “What’s going on?”

Outside of DeSantis, other Republicans said that Apple and Google have too much control over the internet via their respective app-downloading stores. Removing Twitter from both would mean that the social media app would be heavily limited in its growth and usage.

Parler, a social media platform favored by conservatives, was removed from the App Store, Google Play, and Amazon Web Services days after the Jan. 6 Capitol incident. For more than a month, the website was not accessible, and data shows that its usage significantly dropped during that time period and has never recovered.

“This is why we need to end the App Store duopoly before the end of this year. No one should have this kind of market power,” Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo) wrote.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), who co-sponsored a Senate measure targeting app stores, added that “Apple and Google currently have a stranglehold on companies and have used their leverage to bully businesses.”

Elon Musk
Tesla CEO Elon Musk speaks at a gaming convention in Los Angeles, Calif., on June 13, 2019. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

In the first quarter of 2022, Apple was the top advertiser on Twitter, spending $48 million and accounting for more than 4 percent of total revenue for the period, the Washington Post reported, citing an internal Twitter document.

Cook, Apple’s CEO, has not yet weighed in on Musk’s comments. When asked about possibly removing Twitter from the App Store in an interview on Nov. 15, he replied: “They say that they are going to continue to moderate and so … I count on them to do that.”

COVID Policy

Twitter rolled back a policy that was aimed at tackling misinformation related to COVID-19 on the social media platform. The specific measures that Twitter will drop were not immediately clear.

“Effective November 23, 2022, Twitter is no longer enforcing the COVID-19 misleading information policy,” according to an update on its blog page.

Statistics published by Twitter say that it has suspended more than 11,000 accounts for breaking its COVID rules and removed around 100,000 pieces of content, according to CNN. Top Biden administration officials, including Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, had praised (pdf) Twitter’s prior policies and told other big tech firms to adopt similar regimes.

In early 2020, Musk told analysts on a call that he does not favor COVID-19 lockdowns.

“I would call it, ‘forcibly imprisoning people in their homes’ against all their Constitutional rights, in my opinion, and breaking people’s freedoms in ways that are horrible and wrong and not why people came to America or built this country,” Musk stated at the time. “It’s an outrage.”

Meanwhile, Musk has announced plans to offer a “general amnesty” this week for some users that Twitter that were previously banned for violating its rules. Accounts for former President Donald Trump, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), and others have already been reinstated in recent days.

Musk took over Twitter on Oct. 27, paying $44 billion for the company, and has moved quickly to initiate a number of changes to its product and staff. Musk said on Oct. 29 he would set up a content moderation council with “widely diverse viewpoints,” although later he said that left-wing pressure groups broke an agreement with him and have told companies to stop advertising on Twitter.

Reuters contributed to this report.

Jack Phillips
Breaking News Reporter
Jack Phillips is a senior reporter for The Epoch Times based in New York. He covers breaking news.