During the House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel, Apple CEO Time Cook was questioned about the company’s monopoly on its App Store. Cook claimed that Apple “treats every developer the same”; however, this contradicts the company’s past actions where it has banned conservative-leaning apps and developers.
Appearing before the House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel via video-link alongside CEOs of Facebook, Google and Amazon, Cook faced intense grilling from Georgia Rep. Hank Johnson regarding the company’s control over its App Store and the apps that iOS users can install on their devices.
“Mr. Cook, with over one hundred million iPhone users in the United States alone and with Apple’s ownership of the app store giving Apple the ability to control which apps are allowed to be marketed to Apple users, you wield immense power over small businesses to grow and prosper,” Johnson stated.
While Cook claims that Apple practices impartiality in their app store, saying that “the rules apply to everyone,” the company’s actions have proved otherwise. Over the years, Apple has removed conservative-leaning apps and developers from its ecosystem.
One of the most notable examples of this was the app Gab. This social media app was launched in August of 2016 as an alternative to Twitter. It was founded on the principle that “whatever is permissible under the First Amendment is what Gab allows onto its site.”
Gab’s open nature attracted quite a few right-leaning users, who were disappointed with the perceived liberal-leaning moderation of other social networks. This increase in its conservative user-base, however, brought the platform under scrutiny, with some seeing it as a shield for the alt-right. This in turn led to Apple, and other platform holders, to ban Gab’s app from their store. (Related: Tech industry trying to censor Gab.ai to shut down free speech and control the narrative.)
Gab’s founders, however, have denied this claim. Co-founder Ekrem Buyukkaya has been quick to point out that his heritage as a Turkish Kurd Muslim makes it impossible for him to be a white supremacist. In addition, he also claims to have “never supported Trump” in his life.
When Apple banned Gab, CEO Andrew Torla pointed out that their app allowed users to filter out content they don’t like.
“Apple went out of their way to seek out this content and find any reason to reject our app,” said Torla. “We will continue to appeal this decision and defend free speech for everyone. In the meantime, Gab can be accessed from any mobile browser as always.”
In addition to the companies banning of conservative-leaning apps, the House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel also called into question some of Apple’s practices in its App Store.
One such practice is Apple’s preferential treatment of certain partners over others – a fact that runs counter to Cook’s claims that it treats every developer in the same manner. In the hearing, Johnson pointed out that Apple has negotiated exceptions to its usual 30 percent commission on some apps, specifically mentioning Amazon Prime.
Johnson asked: “Is a reduced commission such as the one Amazon Prime gets available to other app developers?” To which Cook confirmed that it was if the developer met certain criteria.
In addition, Johnson also pointed out that Apple requires all developers to use Apple’s payment processing system. He noted that Apple collects customer data through this payment system and then analyzes it to determine whether it would be profitable for Apple to launch a competing app.
Finally, Johnson also pointed out that there was no mechanism in place to prevent Apple from increasing its commission. In response, Cook stated that the company had never increased its commission since it started operating the App Store.
“We have never increased commissions in the store since the first day it operated in 2008,” stated Cook. To this, Johnson simply responded with: “But there’s nothing stopping you from doing that is there?”
Learn more about how Silicon Valley is shutting down conservatives at Censorship.news.