Apple is real. Twitter, not really

What do I care about more? Do I care about my iPhone, my iPad, my MacBook and the two Mac desktops — or do I care more about the feed on my Twitter app? Oh, and I forgot to mention my Apple Watch.

Guess the answer.

I used to greatly admire Twitter owner Elon Musk for his championing of electric vehicles. That Tesla (and the rocket company SpaceX) made him the world’s richest man was fine with me. No problem here with billionaires who build great things and pay their taxes.

But Musk can’t possibly think that he can win his fight against Apple, the world’s most valuable company. Even if that were a possibility, he’s not going about it the right way. Of course, that’s assuming his motive is to indeed win and not just Gorilla-glue his name to the daily headlines.

Let’s accept everyone’s arguments at face value. In the name of free speech, Musk is opening Twitter to unmoderated bigots, vaccine deniers and other assorted creeps. That’s his right. Twitter is his toy to play with or break.

Apple, on the other hand, wants to keep the worst nastiness out of its users’ faces. It has thus banned from its App Store sites that do not meet its standards for moderating content. That is Apple’s right.

And it’s the right of Apple and other big corporations to not advertise on the burning dumpster Twitter is becoming. Apple also has the right to demand a 30% cut from software developers wanting to put their wares on Apple devices — just as Twitter can charge users $8 a month for blue checkmarks.

At the end of the day, what is Musk’s weapon, really? A social media app?

“This is a battle for the future of civilization,” Musk tweeted grandiosely. “If free speech is lost even in America, tyranny is all that lies ahead.”

To which former Rep. Adam Kinzinger tweeted, “It’s twitter man. Not WW3.”

Musk overpaid $44 billion to buy Twitter. Apple, on the other hand, is worth $2.3 trillion. (The oil giant Saudi Aramco has a market value of $1.9 trillion.)

Investors, meanwhile, have limited patience with CEOs who get distracted from their core business and come off as jerks. Who is taking care of Tesla? And aren’t Musk’s provocations turning off would-be buyers of his electric cars?

This has been a tough year for many stocks, but for Tesla’s, it’s been miserable. As of late November, Tesla shares have lost nearly 50% of their value. The 2022 return on Apple shares (which includes dividends) was down only 18.31%.

Dan Ives, a tech analyst, has called Musk’s Twitter fight with Apple “the gift that keeps on giving for the Tesla ‘bears,’ ” investors who bet on the stock price going down.

Apple world tends to be a gentle place. Its inhabitants undoubtedly like the company’s moves to protect user privacy. Apple also wins applause for banning misinformation about COVID-19 — something Twitter has just said it would now allow.

By the way, it’s simply not true that only liberal social media gets the Apple green light. Anyone who has used Apple products to follow political opinion knows that conservative views are easy to find.

It would appear that all the money in the world couldn’t buy Musk a sense of humor. And that’s what he’s going to need if the day comes that Apple drops Twitter from the App Store and the 1 billion iPhone owners start forgetting that Twitter ever existed.

Apple sells real stuff, things that need to be recharged. Twitter does not. It’s just an app that the delete button can make disappear. Musk really should have stuck with cars.

 Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com.