Google And Apple Kick Parler Off Their App Stores [Update: Amazon Jumps on the Ban Train]

Illustration for article titled Google And Apple Kick Parler Off Their App Stores [Update: Amazon Jumps on the Ban Train]
Photo: Olivier Douliery (Getty Images)

Updated: 1/9/2021, 8:24 p.m. ET: Apple has finally pulled the trigger! On Saturday Apple followed Google’s lead and purged Parler’s app from its app store. The social network’s sales pitch of being “the world’s premier free speech platform” has turned it into a breeding ground for deplatformed conservatives who reportedly used Parler among other sites to plan this week’s assault on the Capitol.

In a letter to Parler’s developers shared with Gizmodo, Apple said it found the company’s proposed content moderation measures “inadequate to address the proliferation of dangerous and objectionable content” on its platform. On Friday, Apple reportedly gave Parler 24 hours to implement stricter moderation policies or risk getting kicked from its app store.

In Parler’s response, which is only mentioned in part in the letter, the company referenced implementing some kind of moderation plan “for the time being” and creating a temporary “task force” to tackle the spread of harmful content. Apple deemed these measures insufficient and added that it had continued to find posts containing objectionable content on the platform, a violation of its app store guidelines. For those reasons, Parler’s app will be banned from Apple’s app store until it becomes compliant with App Store Review Guidelines and the company has proved it can “effectively moderate and filter the dangerous and harmful content” on Parler.

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“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,” said an Apple spokesperson. “Parler has not taken adequate measures to address the proliferation of these threats to people’s safety. We have suspended Parler from the App Store until they resolve these issues.”

In a post on the platform Saturday, Parler CEO John Matze said that Apple was displaying a “horrible double standard” and had banned the app until its developers “give up free speech” and turned Parler into “a surveillance platform.” He also promised that more details about Parler’s next steps are “coming soon.” Presumably it involves creating a safe space where those big tech meanies can’t tell them what to do.

Earlier:

Parler was suspended from Google’s Play Store on Friday over its lack of content moderation, ironically the very reason the social media platform has quickly become an online gutter collecting deplatformed conservatives and far-right extremists. And a ban from Apple’s App Store may not be far behind.

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Google pulled the app following the company’s purported role in the insurrection at the Capitol this week that left at least five people dead. Parler was one of several online forums that Trump supporters reportedly used to coordinate Wednesday’s riot and threaten violence against several political leaders set to sanction President-elect Joe Biden’s victory that day.

In an emailed statement, Google confirmed that “[i]n light of this ongoing and urgent public safety threat,” it has suspended the app’s listing until Parler beefs up its moderation policies to keep that kind of “egregious content” off its platform.

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“In order to protect user safety on Google Play, our longstanding policies require that apps displaying user-generated content have moderation policies and enforcement that removes egregious content like posts that incite violence,” said a Google spokesperson. “All developers agree to these terms and we have reminded Parler of this clear policy in recent months.”

Apple has also reportedly threatened to kick Parler off its app store unless the company implements similar content moderation policies. In an email reviewed by Buzzfeed News from Apple to Parler executives, Apple threatens the company with expulsion unless it adopts a sweeping moderation plan in the next 24 hours.

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Parler CEO John Matze confirmed Apple’s threat in a statement to Reuters on Friday. In its decision, Apple’s App Store review team cited instances of Parler users plotting to arm themselves and storm Capitol Hill, per a letter to Parler reviewed by the outlet.

Parler did not immediately reply to Gizmodo’s request for comment. But now that Google has pulled the trigger, Apple’s likely to follow its lead to avoid the bad press of continuing to host a safe haven tied to the terrorists behind this week’s violence.

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Workers at Amazon have also called for the e-commerce giant to stop hosting Parler on its cloud platform, Amazon Web Services. Amazon Employees For Climate Justice posted a tweet Saturday demanding that Amazon deny Parler services until it cracks down on posts encouraging violence.

“We cannot be complicit in more bloodshed and violent attacks on our democracy,” the advocacy group wrote.

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And amazingly, Amazon seems to have listened for once. The company has suspended Parler’s account on Amazon Web Services and the ban will take effect on Sunday, according to an internal email reviewed by Buzzfeed News. That means Parler will go dark until it finds a new web hosting service. Amazon declined the outlet’s request to comment on the suspension.

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For its part, Matze doubled down on Parler’s commitment to free speech in a series of posts on the platform Friday.

“We will not cave to pressure from anti-competitive actors!” Matze wrote. “We will and always have enforced our rules against violence and illegal activity. But we WONT cave to politically motivated companies and those authoritarians who hate free speech!”

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Parler’s user agreement states that it may terminate accounts or remove content that engages in illegal conduct or endeavors to “infringe the legal rights of others.” However, the company’s mostly taken a hands-off approach to user content per its mission statement of being “the world’s premier free speech platform,” which is now coming around to bite them in the ass. Don’t you just love to see it?

You can read Google’s statement on the matter in full below:

In order to protect user safety on Google Play, our longstanding policies require that apps displaying user-generated content have moderation policies and enforcement that removes egregious content like posts that incite violence. All developers agree to these terms and we have reminded Parler of this clear policy in recent months. We’re aware of continued posting in the Parler app that seeks to incite ongoing violence in the US. We recognize that there can be reasonable debate about content policies and that it can be difficult for apps to immediately remove all violative content, but for us to distribute an app through Google Play, we do require that apps implement robust moderation for egregious content. In light of this ongoing and urgent public safety threat, we are suspending the app’s listings from the Play Store until it addresses these issues.

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Updated: 1/9/2021, 3:12 p.m. ET: Included statement from Amazon Employees For Climate Justice.

Updated: 1/9/2021, 9:21 p.m. ET: Added that Amazon has joined the ranks of companies banning Parler.

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Gizmodo weekend editor. Freelance games reporter. Full-time disaster bi.

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