Tech giants cut off Parler

11 January 2021

“I believe Amazon, Google, Apple worked together to try and ensure they don’t have competition,” said John Matze, chief executive of the controversial social network Parler. “They will NOT win! We are the worlds last hope for free speech and free information.”

Parler, however, does not seem to be winning at present. Heavily criticised for its role in giving voice to far-right posts that spread misinformation and incited violence, the network has now been removed from Apple and Google's app stores, while Amazon has kicked the platform off its web hosting service. As it stands, the website has gone dark.

Apple and Google moved after saying that Parler did not sufficiently police its users' posts, while Amazon said that the website has repeatedly violated its rules. Their actions leave Parler without a hosting service and distribution network, with Matze stating that he had “a lot of work to do in the next 24 hours to make sure everyone’s data is not permanently deleted off the internet.” Amazon has already said that it will preserve the data.

The tech giant's actions follow on from the attack upon the US Capitol and scrutiny about the role that social networks played in organising the riot. Since its foundation in 2015, Parler has billed itself as a “free speech” alternative to Twitter and Facebook, courting right-wing users who are disillusioned with moderation practices on mainstream alternatives such as Facebook and Twitter. The platform has grown to around 15 million users.

In a letter sent to Parler, Amazon listed 98 examples of posts on its site that encouraged violence. “It’s clear that Parler does not have an effective process to comply with” Amazon’s rules, the company said. Amazon “provides technology and services to customers across the political spectrum, and we continue to respect Parler’s right to determine for itself what content it will allow on its site. However, we cannot provide services to a customer that is unable to effectively identify and remove content that encourages or incites violence against others.”

Apple, meanwhile, told the company that its moderation measures were inadequate. “We have always supported diverse points of view being represented on the App Store, but there is no place on our platform for threats of violence and illegal activity,” Apple said in a statement.

Matze has claimed that Parler holds no responsibility for the Capitol attack, which was planned and promoted across social media platforms. In an interview with The New York Times, Matze said, “I don’t feel responsible for any of this and neither should the platform, considering we’re a neutral town square that just adheres to the law.”

While Parler is currently down, other sites may fill the breach. Gab, for instance, remains popular among the far right and may now experience further growth. In 2018 Gab itself was temporarily forced offline after it lost support from companies such as PayPal and GoDaddy after having hosted anti-Semitic posts by a man who shot and killed 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue.