UPDATED with Amazon comment, 4:11 PM. Amazon has responded to a lawsuit filed by Parler earlier today after the tech giant’s web services arm let the upstart social network go dark after it disseminated false election fraud claims and played a role in last Wednesday’s siege on the U.S. Capitol.
“There is no merit to these claims,” an Amazon Web Services spokesperson said in a statement. “AWS provides technology and services to customers across the political spectrum, and we respect Parler’s right to determine for itself what content it will allow. However, it is clear that there is significant content on Parler that encourages and incites violence against others, and that Parler is unable or unwilling to promptly identify and remove this content, which is a violation of our terms of service. We made our concerns known to Parler over a number of weeks and during that time we saw a significant increase in this type of dangerous content, not a decrease, which led to our suspension of their services Sunday evening.”
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PREVIOUSLY, 10: 54 AM: Parler has filed a federal lawsuit against Amazon for yanking support of its website.
The social network is known for embracing many of the people banned by Twitter, YouTube and other tech platforms. That open-door policy has embroiled the upstart company in a fierce backlash over riots at the U.S. Capitol and its willingness to play a part in the dissemination of lies about the 2020 election and other topics.
After warning it would bail due to what it deemed to be Parler posts directly contributing to violence by backers of President Donald Trump, Amazon Web Services followed through today and the site went dark. Hours later, Parler filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington.
The complaint (read it here) accuses the tech giant of interfering with a competitor’s business by eliminating political speech it doesn’t agree with. “AWS’s decision to effectively terminate Parler’s account is apparently motivated by political animus,” the suit says. “It is also apparently designed to reduce competition in the microblogging services market to the benefit of Twitter.”
Withdrawing support is “the equivalent of pulling the plug on a hospital patient on life support. It will kill Parler’s business — at the very time it is set to skyrocket.”
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has sparred frequently with Trump over a number of issues, to a more public extent than any differences he has had with other tech CEOs.
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In addition to violating antitrust law, Amazon also breached its contract, Parler contends. (The contract is included as a lengthy exhibit along with the main filing.) The suit seeks a temporary restraining order, restoring Parler to AWS, as well as unspecified damages.
The Amazon call followed the removal of the Parler app from the Apple and Google app stores over the weekend. The tech companies all determined that continuing to facilitate the app could promote violence, given that many Donald Trump supporters have taken to Parler recently. The attack on the U.S. Capitol last week followed waves of posts on Parler promoting false claims of election fraud and fomenting the outrage that resulted in the deadly incursion in Washington.
Twitter and Facebook banned Trump from their platforms, and a number of others have done likewise, after the president repeatedly urged his followers to march on the Capitol. Unlike Parler, Twitter had taken to flagging or sometimes deleting posts spreading lies about the election, whose results have been reaffirmed by dozens of courts throwing out lawsuits by Trump and his supporters. Parler’s explosive growth in 2020 came in large part due to its willingness to offer users a platform that would explicitly not restrict speech.
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Several social media figures banned elsewhere flocked to the site, including familiar personalities like Fox News commentator Dan Bongino. As other social media companies finally began to take action in 2020 to flag or limit posts after initially asserting that they should not be held responsible for what their users say or do, Parler largely stood pat. Its motto: “Read news. Speak free.”
Another major societal issue, Covid-19, also has had a problematic presence on Parler since 2020. Anti-vaccine rants, false claims about the science of the coronavirus and other material has been circulating freely on the platform.
The lawsuit notes a deal announced last month between AWS and Twitter and said a significant driver of Parler’s growth was the shifting of Twitter users to Parler. Last Friday, the day Twitter banned Trump, installations of the Parler app increased 355%, according to the suit.