UPDATED 1/13/2020 — As Parler sues Amazon to get service restored, Amazon has responded with details of their own. See the update below or read the full story now.
Parler announced it was suing Amazon for no longer allowing the company to use Amazon’s web-hosting services. This came about following a series of blows against Parler over the last week. Now Amazon has responded, saying that the conservative app “systematically failed” to remove dozens of violent and hateful posts that had been reported to the company.
Parler bills itself as a place to “[s]peak freely and express yourself openly, without fear of being ‘deplatformed’ for your views.” As such, the social media app is favored by conservatives, and in some cases, ultra-right-wing extremists who are banned from other social media sites like Facebook or Twitter for their violent rhetoric.
Last week’s attack on the Capitol Building — spurred in part by President Trump’s encouragement over Twitter — caused every major social media site to close down the president’s accounts. This caused many conservative users to flock to Parler.
However, soon after both Apple and Google removed the Parler app from their stores, making it virtually impossible for new users interested in using the platform to download it to their devices. Then Amazon announced that it would no longer provide Parler with its cloud hosting services, leaving the social media site dark as of Monday morning.
All three tech giants claim their ban of Parler was after numerous warnings about content that incites violence. Parler claims that this is just another attempt by big tech to silence any competitors and filed the federal lawsuit accusing Amazon of doing just that.
Parler is asking a federal judge in Seattle to issue a temporary restraining order to restore use of Amazon’s cloud hosting. The company alleges breach of contract and antitrust violations.
UPDATED — 1/13/2020
Google, Apple and Amazon all claimed that Parler’s inability to regulate posts that would potentially incite violence or illegal activity made it necessary for them to sever ties with the social media app. In a letter to Parler, Amazon Web Services cited at least 98 instances of posts that encouraged violence and remained active. This included public calls to hang, shoot or kill Black and Jewish people, lawmakers, tech CEOs, police officers, and more.
Following Parler’s lawsuit, Amazon issued a filing that stated Parler failed to abide by Amazon’s terms of service, allowing hateful content to multiply on its platform.
“This case is about Parler’s demonstrated unwillingness and inability to remove from the servers of Amazon Web Services … content that threatens the public safety, such as by inciting and planning the rape, torture, and assassination of named public officials and private citizens,” Amazon wrote to the court.
“AWS notified Parler repeatedly that its content violated the parties’ agreement, requested removal, and reviewed Parler’s plan to address the problem, only to determine that Parler was both unwilling and unable to do so,” Amazon added.
Parler has touted itself as an open platform for free speech that does not censor content, but rather allows its user community at large to decide what they deem appropriate or inappropriate. However, the concern is that the platform is being used to incite violence, and Parler’s CEO John Matze released a statement Monday, vehemently denying those claims.
“In an interview this week, some believe I gave the impression that I somehow did not care whether Parler is used to incite violence,” he stated. “I want to set the record straight: That interpretation could not be further from the truth.”
Matze believes the removal of Parler by Apple, Google and now Amazon is an orchestrated attempt to maintain the monopoly on social media. He posted on his own Parler account, “This was a coordinated attack by the tech giants to kill competition in the market place. We were too successful too fast. You can expect the war on competition and free speech to continue, but don’t count us out.”
Indeed, Business Insider is reporting that Parler has registered its domain with Epik, a company known for hosting other far-right websites.
The removal of Parler comes at the same time that these very technology companies are being sued by multiple states for creating monopolies. Indeed, the dominant influence of these large tech companies is an ongoing concern for members of both political parties and their constituents. While most agree in principle on regulating posts that incite violence or harm, the nuances of how that is done are complicated.