Mark Zuckerberg calls Apple’s App Store rules a ‘conflict of interest’

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the content moderation rules were a “conflict of interest” since they are often pointed at rivals. PHOTO: PEXELS

NEW YORK – Meta Platforms chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said on Wednesday that Apple’s App Store presents a conflict of interest, adding his voice to a flurry of criticism of the iPhone maker’s software policies.

“It is problematic for one company to be able to control what app experiences end up on a device,” Mr Zuckerberg said in an interview at the New York Times DealBook Summit.

The “vast majority of profits in mobile ecosystem go toward Apple”, he said.

App store policies and fees implemented by Apple, and to a lesser extent Google parent Alphabet, have long been a point of contention for technology companies looking to reach broad mobile audiences.

Billionaire Elon Musk added to the chorus after his acquisition of Twitter, sending a flurry of tweets this week denouncing Apple’s fees and restrictions on what apps can be sold.

Mr Zuckerberg echoed some of Mr Musk’s points. He called Apple’s content moderation rules for apps a “conflict of interest” since they are often pointed at rivals. It makes Apple “not just a governor looking out for people’s interests”.

Revenue at Meta, which owns social networks Facebook and Instagram, has taken a hit since Apple tightened its privacy policies to restrict how users can be tracked and targeted with advertising.

Though Mr Zuckerberg seemed to back up his objection to Apple’s policies, Mr Musk on Wednesday walked back some of his criticism of the iPhone maker. He said he met with Apple CEO Tim Cook and had a “good conversation” that resolved a “misunderstanding” about Twitter’s place in the App Store.

As for Mr Musk’s approach to running Twitter, Mr Zuckerberg hedged his comments. He said he guesses that some approaches will work and others won’t.

“I think it’ll be very interesting to see how this plays out,” he said.

On whether Meta would allow former US president Donald Trump back onto Facebook, Mr Zuckerberg did not answer, but pointed to prior guidance the company has gotten from its external Oversight Board, weighing in on difficult content decisions. Meta is expected to make a decision in January.

Wall Street has become increasingly bearish on Meta’s investment in its money-losing virtual reality business amid slowing ad revenue.

Earlier in November, Mr Zuckerberg said the company would slash more than 11,000 jobs.

He took personal responsibility for decisions that led to the need to cut costs. In April, Meta reported its first-ever quarterly revenue drop.

The interview on Wednesday began with a recorded conversation between Mr Zuckerberg and the moderator as avatars in the immersive digital world the company calls the metaverse.

Still, Mr Zuckerberg said the idea that Meta is wholly focused on the metaverse is “basically wrong”.

Messaging program WhatsApp will be his next major monetisation target, he said, as that platform is “largely untapped”.

He cited progress in Reels, the company’s short video feature, saying some estimates show it has half the traffic of viral video-sharing app TikTok outside of China. BLOOMBERG

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