Sweeney later clarified his remarks, but the internet remained unimpressed.
What you need to know
- Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney has sparked fury on Twitter after likening its lawsuit against Apple to the civil rights movement.
- Sweeney later said the comparison was not to “the wrongs being fought” but the means of fighting them.
Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney has sparked fury on Twitter, after reportedly likening the company’s lawsuit to the civil rights movement.
The comments were first noted in an article by TechCrunch:
Sweeney — whose company has been embroiled in a battle since launched a direct-payment system in its popular “Fortnite” game to bypass Apple’s fees — went even further today in conversation with Dealbook during a two-day event.
Specifically, Sweeney reportedly stated:
“It’s everybody’s duty to fight. It’s not just an option that somebody’s lawyers might decide, but it’s actually our duty to fight that. If we had adhered to all of Apple’s terms and, you know, taken their 30% payment processing fees and passed the cost along to our customers, then that would be Epic colluding with Apple to restrain competition on iOS and to inflate prices for consumers. So going along with Apple’s agreement is what is wrong. And that’s why Epic mounted a challenge to this, and you know you can hear of any, and [inaudible] to civil rights fights, where there were actual laws on the books, and the laws were wrong. And people disobeyed them, and it was not wrong to disobey them because to go along with them would be collusion to make them status quo.”
The initial article has garnered a lot of negative attention from onlookers, with more than 890 quote tweets and plenty of comments, the vast majority of them unflattering. One jested:
If there’s one thing Martin Luther King believed in, it’s the rights of billion-dollar companies to make more money off cosmetic DLC aimed at children
The Civil Rights fight to sell zoomers some vbucks on the Apple Store
“Billion-dollar company that wants to displace trillion-dollar company as developer gateway, because skins and emotes profits, hopes you’ll liken them to the abuse and inhumanity fought in the civil rights movement” is NOT the added grotesquery I needed in 2020, thanks. https://t.co/Pgj5ZRYusi
— Rene Ritchie (@reneritchie) November 18, 2020
Sweeney then doubled down on his view, asking “Hey critics, please read what I said and tell me if it’s actually wrong: When the rules were wrongful, it was right to disobey them. That’s the comparison to the civil rights movement.”
Plenty of people took Sweeney up on his offer, one comment stating:
That’s gotta be one of the most amazing false equivalency arguments ever made. A CEO of a billion-dollar company claiming the fact he has to pay a store to distribute his product is like the fight for a black person to be treated as an equal human.
Maybe I’m naive, but putting civil rights issues side by side to 2 multi-billion dollar company battling out in court for control of more profits just doesn’t sit right to me.
— baguette (@hyeoraa) November 18, 2020
The comments even drew ire from social media activists Sleeping Giants who simply responded “NOPE”:
“Fighting to collect a greater percentage our millions of dollars in in-app purchases is like John Lewis marching on the Edmund Pettus Bridge.”
— Sleeping Giants (@slpng_giants) November 19, 2020
As mentioned, Sweeney then clarified his comments in response to the above “false equivalency” retort stating:
The comparison wasn’t to the wrongs being fought – there’s no comparison – but to the means of fighting them. The question that was directly asked was why Epic broke Apple’s rules. The answer is the principle that it’s right to disobey rules that are wrongful.
Sweeney further noted that the comments were made “in answer to the question of why Epic broke Apple’s developer guidelines the way we did” before stating:
There’s no comparison between the struggle for fundamental human rights and this argument with monopolies, but there is much we can learn from the movement. The tendency for companies is to negotiate privately for profit advantage, shying away from standing for real principles.
The incident follows Apple’s announcement that it will halve the App Store commission rate developers pay to 15% from next year if they earn less than $1 million. Whilst plenty of indie developers welcomed the news, Epic Games and Spotify blasted the move as a bid to divide app creators.