Unmoderated social network Parler, popular with Trump supporters, is suing AWS after the cloud provider said the platform's posts incited violence.

Pádraig Belton, Contributor, Light Reading

January 12, 2021

5 Min Read
Parler, kicked offline, sues Amazon Web Services

Parler, the "free speech" social network favored by Trump supporters, is now suing Amazon after the tech giant said the platform can no longer use Amazon Web Services.

The decision was "motivated by political animus" and violated the 30-day notice period in Parler's contract, the platform said in the suit, which it filed on January 11 in the US Federal District Court for the Western District of Washington, in Seattle.

Parler also said Amazon was violating US antitrust laws by reducing competition for Parler's much larger competitor, Twitter.

Amazon announced on January 10 it was suspending Parler's account as of 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time, saying it was not confident the platform could properly police its platform against content that encouraged or incited violence.

Amazon Web Services wrote to Parler on January 9 saying they had in recent weeks reported 98 examples of "posts that clearly encourage and incite violence" to the platform.

The violent content violates AWS's terms, the cloud provider says.

Google and Apple have also both taken down Parler from their respective app stores.

Google said the platform's lack of "moderation policies and enforcement" posed a "public safety threat."

Apple noted "the app appears to continue to be used to plan and facilitate yet further illegal and dangerous activities" and removed it after Parler failed to comply with a request to submit a "moderation improvement plan."

Step into my Parler

But Twitter also frequently features hate speech, including trending calls on Friday evening to "hang Mike Pence," argues Parler in the lawsuit.

"It's clear that Parler does not have an effective process to comply with the AWS terms of service," said AWS.

Twitter has taken high-profile actions to remove tweets it views as inciting violence, including ones by Donald Trump calling into question the result of the November 2020 US Presidential election.

Trump referred in tweets to his supporters as "American patriots" who "must not be disrespected". He was afterwards suspended from Twitter.

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Trump's critics say these statements endorse the actions of last week's rioters who invaded the US Capitol building during the official certification of the results of the presidential election.

Parler, which John Matze and two co-founders launched in 2018 in Nevada, has said it will engage in minimal moderation and fact-checking, citing free-speech grounds.

"We're a community town square, an open town square, with no censorship. If you can say it on the street of New York, you can say it on Parler," Matze has said.

These commitments to unmoderated speech, though, have made Parler a favorite for fringe communities on the far right.

None of Parler's claims of antitrust, breach of contract, or tortious interference will go very far in the federal courts, predicts New York lawyer Akiva Cohen.

Arguing AWS has treated Parler differently from Twitter, when its difference from Twitter is "Parler's entire pitch," is unlikely to convince a federal judge, added Mr Cohen, who called the legal action a "lolsuit."

There's also no legal right to have a contractor enforce its contracts equally, he says.

If a contractor's contract says it can ban clients for hate speech, and then it only bans some clients for hate speech, this doesn't give the banned clients a recourse in law.

And Parler's contract with AWS said the 30-day notice period doesn't apply if "you or an end user's use of the service offerings poses a security risk to the service offerings or any third party."

Online archivists have been preserving posts on Parler, to document the online activity that led to the Capitol Hill invasion.

But it turns out the website was also poorly coded, with no authentication in its public API, and deleted posts remaining on the site, only with a delete flag.

Each post carried a numerical ID taken from the ID of the previous post, making it easy to find deleted posts.

Parler's likely demise is unlikely to be mourned by anyone not on political far-right.

Twitter's decision to ban Donald Trump permanently, though, has had its critics.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel called the permanent ban "problematic" on freedom-of-speech grounds, calling for the US to follow Europe's lead in establishing legislative frameworks balancing freedoms of expression with prohibitions against hate speech.

These decisions should be made by parliaments, not "by the decision of the management of social media platforms," added her spokesman Steffen Seibert.

Another critic was Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny. The permanent ban was an "unacceptable act of censorship," setting a precedent which will be exploited by the enemies of freedom of speech around the world, "in Russia as well," Navalny said.

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— Padraig Belton, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

About the Author(s)

Pádraig Belton

Contributor, Light Reading

Contributor, Light Reading

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