The social media app went dark on Sunday night after Amazon suspended it from its servers

By Rachel DeSantis
January 11, 2021 03:33 PM
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Parler
| Credit: Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty

Parler, the Twitter-esque social media app that billed itself to its largely conservative user base as a "free speech social network," has gone dark, as major tech companies say it failed to properly vet floods of violence-inciting posts.

Google, Apple and Amazon all took steps to cut ties with Parler over the weekend following the insurrection at the Capitol building on Wednesday, part of which was allegedly organized by users posting on the app.

Though CEO John Matze told The New York Times he felt neither he nor Parler beared any responsibility for the mobs that stormed the Capitol, the app was kicked off its servers late Sunday for repeatedly violating rules, according to its former host, Amazon.

The company cited Parler's violent content, which it said violated company terms, and identified at least 98 examples of posts that encouraged violence, according to a letter sent by Amazon Web Services to Parler on Saturday and obtained by BuzzFeed News.

"Given the unfortunate events that transpired this past week in Washington, D.C., there is serious risk that this type of content will further incite violence," read the letter, which was signed by the AWS Trust & Safety Team.

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Parler has since filed suit against AWS, claiming anti-trust and breach of contract, NPR reported. The company is reportedly trying to keep Amazon from removing it from its servers by seeking a temporary restraining order.

Amazon's ouster came after both Google and Apple removed Parler from their respective app stores, shortly after President Donald Trump was permanently suspended from both Twitter and Facebook for inciting violence.

A Google spokesperson said Parler was removed because it did not have proper moderation and enforcement policies in place to remove "egregious" content, Axios reported.

Apple, meanwhile, gave the company 24 hours to make adjustments to curb the planning of "illegal and dangerous activities" — and when that failed, down it came, according to BuzzFeed News.

"We have always supported diverse points of view being represented on the App Store, but there is not place on our platform for threats of violence and illegal activity," the company said in a statement.

According to BuzzFeed, Parler was allegedly used to help coordinate the storming of the Capitol building, and in the days afterwards was flooded with death threats and posts that encouraged so-called "patriots" to march in D.C. with weapons on Jan. 19, the day before the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden. Additional posts on the site also called for the execution of Vice President Mike Pence.

Hours after the insurrection, Matze told the Times, "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."

Matze said that Parler would likely be shut down "for up to a week as we rebuild from scratch," and also issued a statement over the weekend accusing Amazon, Google and Apple of orchestrating a "coordinated effort" to ban the app, the Times reported.

"This was a coordinated attack by the tech giants to kill competition in the marketplace," Matze reportedly wrote, adding that he believed the companies booted the app "knowing our options would be limited and knowing this would inflict the most damage right as President Trump was banned from the tech companies."

He added to Fox News: "Every vendor from text message services to email providers to our lawyers all ditched us too on the same day."

Parler, which is based in Nevada, launched in 2018, but surged in popularity late last year as Twitter and Facebook castaways came to seek refuge in its promise of neutrality.

The app's base more than doubled to 10 million people in under a week, the Wall Street Journal reported in November, growing in popularity after Twitter and Facebook began flagging post-election tweets from Trump as inaccurate.

People like Sen. Ted Cruz, Congressman Devin Nunes and Fox News host Sean Hannity all had accounts — but according to the Anti-Defamation League, so, too, did a large number of extremists.

"Proud Boys, QAnon adherents, anti-government extremists and white supremacists openly promote their ideologies on the site, while Holocaust denial, antisemitism, racism and other forms of bigotry are also easy to find," the ADL said.

Matze told the WSJ in November that Parler's focus was always on free speech, and that banning people — even QAnon followers — would go against that.

Parler allows users to choose whether they want to apply filters that hide content such as hate speech, graphic violence or pornography, while "community jurors" are supposed to enforce the removal of things like spam, violence threats or illegal activity.

"The whole company was never intended to be a pro-Trump thing. A lot of the audience is pro-Trump. I don't care. I'm not judging them either way," Matze told CNBC in June. "We're a community town square, an open town square, with no censorship."