Apple CEO Tim Cook was questioned today by Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) about the company’s monopoly on its App Store during a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel alongside the CEOs of Facebook, Google, and Amazon. Cook claims Apple “treats every developer the same,” and that “the rules apply to everyone.” Despite his assurances, Apple has banned apps from conservative-leaning developers including Gab.
Appearing via video link before the House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel today, Apple CEO Tim Cook faced harsh questioning from Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) about the company’s monopoly on its App Store and the apps that iOS users can install on their devices.
Johnson began his statement saying: “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. Apple is the sole decision-maker as to whether an app is made available to app users through Apple’s app store isn’t that correct?”
Cook replied: “If it’s a native app, yes sir,” to which Johnson stated: “Throughout our investigation, we’ve heard concerns that rules governing the app store review process are not available to app developers. The rules are made up as you go, they are arbitrarily interpreted and enforced and are subject to change whenever Apple sees fit to change. And developers have no choice but to go along with the changes or they must leave the app store. That’s an enormous amount of power, also the rules get changed to benefit Apple at the expense of app developers and the app store is said to also discriminate between app developers with similar apps on the Apple app platform, and also as to smaller app developers versus large app developers. So, Mr. Cook, does Apple not treat all app developers equally?”
Cook replied: “Sir, we treat every developer the same, we have open and transparent rules, its a rigorous process. Because we care so deeply about privacy and security and quality, we do look at every app before it goes on, but those rules apply evenly to everyone and as you can tell…” Johnson then interrupted Cook asking: “Some developers are favored over others, isn’t that correct?” To which Cook replied: “That is not correct.”
Johnson noted: “Apple has negotiated exceptions to its typical 30 percent commission for some apps, like Amazon Prime. Is a reduced commission such as the one Amazon Prime gets available to other app developers?” Cook replied: “It is available to anyone meeting the conditions, yes.”
Johnson further added that Apple requires all developers to use Apple’s payment processing system and noted that by processing payments made through the app store, Apple collects apps’ customer data which Apple uses to determine whether or not it would be profitable for Apple to launch a competing app.
Cook replied: “Sir, 84 percent of the apps are charged nothing, the remaining 16 percent either pay 15 or 30 [percent] depending on the specifics if its in the second year of a subscription for example it only pays 15 percent.” Johnson asked: “What’s to stop Apple from increasing its commission to 50 percent?”
Cook stated: “We have never increased commissions in the store since the first day it operated in 2008,” to which Johnson said “but there’s nothing stopping you from doing that is there?” Cook then argued that developers could choose to develop their apps for other mobile platforms such as Android or Windows if they were unhappy with Apple’s fees.
Apple has a long history of removing apps from its store for a number of reasons and often with little reason. Breitbart News reported in 2016 that the app of the popular social media network Gab was removed from the App Store by apple over content posted by users on the platform, not content generated by the app itself.
Gab CEO Andrew Torba commented at the time: “The double standards of Silicon Valley are on full display with this app store rejection from Apple. Apps like Tumblr, Reddit, and Twitter are flooded with pornographic content and allowed to remain on the App store.”
“Gab empowers users to filter out this type of content, mute users who share it, and also features a reporting system to flag illegal content,” he continued. “Apple went out of their way to seek out this content and find any reason to reject our app. 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.” The Gab app is still unavailable in Apple’s app store.
Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan or contact via secure email at the address firstname.lastname@example.org