Parler is suing Amazon after the technology company booted the social network favored by the far right off its web-hosting services, claiming it's being targeted for political reasons and to reduce competition.
Amazon Web Services booted Parler from its cloud services just after midnight Pacific time Monday, with the site unreachable online as of 4:30 a.m. Eastern time. Amazon said it axed Parler because it was not confident in its ability to monitor content on its platform promoting or inciting violence.
Amazon's "decision to effective terminate Parler's account is apparently motivated by political animus. It is also apparently designed to reduce competition in the microblogging services market to the benefit of Twitter," Parler stated in a complaint filed Monday in Seattle federal court. That violate federal antitrust law, the company claims.
Parler also accused Amazon of using a double standard versus other platforms, pointing out that Twitter had recently signed a multi-year web-hosting deal with Amazon.
Parler is asking for a temporary restraining order blocking Amazon from shutting Parler's account.
"Doing so 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, the company said in its suit.
"There is no merit to these claims. 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," an Amazon spokesperson said in an emailed statement to CBS MoneyWatch.
The conservative platform's popularity spiked after the November election, and was viewed as a likely vehicle for President Donald Trump to reach his followers after being booted from most mainstream media platforms after Wednesday's siege of the U.S. Capitol. In addition to move, Google and Apple removed Parler from their app stores.
Parler's CEO had said that could knock it offline for a week, though that might prove optimistic. And even if it finds a friendlier web-hosting service, without a smartphone app, it's hard to imagine Parler gaining mainstream success.
The 2-year-old magnet for the far right claims more than 12 million users, though mobile app analytics firm Sensor Tower puts the number at 10 million worldwide, with 8 million in the U.S. That's a fraction of the 89 million followers Mr. Trump had on Twitter.
Still, Parler might be attractive to Mr. Trump since it's where his sons Eric and Don Jr. are already active.
Yanked from Google app store
Parler hit headwinds Friday as Google yanked its smartphone app from its app store for allowing postings that seek "to incite ongoing violence in the U.S." Apple followed suit on Saturday evening after giving Parler 24 hours to address complaints it was being used to "plan and facilitate yet further illegal and dangerous activities." Public safety issues will need to be resolved before it is restored, Apple said.
Amazon struck another blow Saturday, informing Parler it would need to look for a new web-hosting service effective midnight Sunday. It reminded Parler in a letter, first reported by Buzzfeed, that it had informed it in the past few weeks of 98 examples of posts "that clearly encourage and incite violence" and said the platform "poses a very real risk to public safety."
Parler CEO John Matze decried the punishments as "a coordinated attack by the tech giants to kill competition in the marketplace. "We were too successful too fast," he said in a Saturday night post, adding it was possible Parler would be unavailable for up to a week "as we rebuild from scratch."
"Every vendor, from text message services, to e-mail providers, to our lawyers all ditched us too on the same day," Matze said Sunday on Fox New Channel's "Sunday Morning Futures." He said while the company is trying to get back online as quickly as possible, it's "having a lot of trouble, because every vendor we talk to says they won't work with us, because, if Apple doesn't approve and Google doesn't approve, they won't."
Losing access to the app stores of Google and Apple - whose operating systems power hundreds of millions of smartphones - severely limits Parler's reach, though it had continued to be accessible via web browser. Losing Amazon Web Services means Parler needs to scramble to find another web host, in addition to the re-engineering.
Meanwhile, another site widely used by the far-right, Gab.com, was apparently benefitting from Parler's troubles. Gab tweeted early Monday that it had "gained more users in the past 2 days than we did in our first two years of existing."
Future of ideology-based platforms
While initially arguing their need to be neutral on speech, Twitter and Facebook gradually yielded to public pressure, drawing the line especially when the so-called Plandemic video emerged early in the coronavirus pandemic urging people not to wear masks, noted civic media professor Ethan Zuckerman of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.
Zuckerman expects the Trump de-platforming may spur important online shifts. Among them, a possible accelerated splintering of the social media world along ideological lines.
"Trump will pull a lot of audience wherever he goes," he said. That could mean more platforms with smaller, more ideologically isolated audiences.
Mr. Trump may also launch his own platform. But that won't happen overnight, and free speech experts anticipate growing pressure on all social media platforms to curb incendiary speech as Americans take stock of Wednesday's violent takeover of the U.S. Capitol by a Trump-incited mob.