Alleged domestic terrorist haven/free speech network Parler has bowed out of its antitrust lawsuit against Amazon. For a blessed moment it seemed we might get a break from conservative bitching and moaning about unfairness. No such luck.
In January, following the storming of the capitol, major tech companies rushed to cut ties with the short-lived (alleged!) insurrectionist hub, including its erstwhile web host, Amazon Web Services. This led Parler to file an ill-conceived suit, asking a judge to force AWS to reinstate the platform, arguing that Amazon had violated antitrust law by giving an unfair advantage to Parler’s “competitor” Twitter, one of the thousands of platforms that also relies on AWS. Amazon, like every other legitimate business, has terms and conditions around the use of its services, and the host of death threats floating around Parler were deemed to be in violation of said terms of service. A judge denied Parler an injunction against Amazon, finding, among other things, that the company was unlikely to win the suit and was unable to prove its claim that keeping the site online was in the public interest. Further undermining Parler’s already paper-thin case was that Amazon had apparently been warning the platform about violating content in the weeks leading up to the riots.
Now, in a 66-page complaint published by NPR, Parler’s staking a new case on 15 counts including defamation, and unlawful business practices. Its long tale of victimhood casts Amazon as a “bully” and itself a “victim of Amazon’s efforts to destroy an up-and-coming technology company through deceptive, defamatory, and bad faith conduct.” The thrust of the defamation argument seems to be Amazon’s termination email which Amazon allegedly “leaked” to Buzzfeed, which, according to Parler, makes “false allegations” that Parler was (in Parler’s terms) “used to incite, organize and coordinate the attack on the Capitol.” Parler claims Amazon did not have, and still has not provided, any evidence.
Here are a few samples of the evidence Amazon provided in a legal filing. Amazon said that it had flagged these to Parler over the weeks leading up to the attack on the Capitol:
- “We are going to fight in a civil War on Jan.20th, Form MILITIAS now and acquire targets.”
- “Fry’em up. The whole fkn crew. #pelosi #aoc #thesquad #soros #gates #chuckschumer #hrc #obama #adamschiff #blm #antifa we are coming for you and you will know it.”
- “Shoot the police that protect these shitbag senators right in the head then make the senator grovel a bit before capping they ass.”
- “This bitch [Stacey Abrams] will be good target practice for our beginners.”
- “This cu** [United States Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao] should be... hung for betraying their country.”
Amazon Web Services claimed that in the days following the insurrection, it talked to Parler about its failed efforts to do something. From its filing:
On January 8 and 9, AWS also spoke with Parler executives about its content moderation policies, processes, and tools, and emphasized that Parler’s current approach failed to address Parler’s duty to promptly identify and remove content that threatened or encouraged violence. In response, Parler outlined additional, reactive steps that would rely almost exclusively on “volunteers.” AWS continued to see problematic content hosted on Parler. During one of the calls, Parler’s CEO reported that Parler had a backlog of 26,000 reports of content that violated its community standards and remained on its service.
In Parler’s new complaint, it says that it in fact “quickly removed any arguably inappropriate content brought to its attention.” Guess they just don’t agree on this one!
“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,” an AWS spokesperson told Gizmodo. “However, as shown by the evidence in Parler’s federal lawsuit, it was clear that there was significant content on Parler that encouraged and incited violence against others, which is a violation of our terms of service. Further, Parler was unable or unwilling to promptly identify and remove this content, which coupled with an increase in this type of dangerous violent content, led to our suspension of their services.”
Parler was unavailable for comment by publication time.
While the company was offline, Parler’s leadership reportedly bickered over the site’s ideology. Co-founder and CEO John Matze claimed that he’d advocated for intervening in white supremacist, terrorist, and QAnon content—and was subsequently fired. GOP megadonor and Parler’s apparent main source of funding, Rebekah Mercer, brought on Tea Party Patriots co-founder Mark Meckler, who’s been a lot more gung-ho about pushing the narrative that tech companies are conspiring to silence speech. Today, NPR reported insiders’ claims that the company even snatched back all of Matze’s shares, though given that Parler has been removed from app stores and no major tech companies seem to want to touch Parler with a ten foot pole, the value of said shares is questionable.
Interestingly, Matze also wondered this aloud on Parler last week:
Gizmodo reached out to Matze via LinkedIn and will update the post if we hear back.
Parler returned in mid-February, hosted by SkySilk, with some preemptive community guidelines declaring that Parler “will not knowingly allow itself to be used as a tool for crime, civil torts, or other unlawful acts.” That said, Parler will not moderate “on the basis of the opinion expressed,”whatever that means.