Parler is now suing Amazon after the company—along with fellow tech giants Apple and Google—refused to continue hosting the “free speech” platform in the wake of last week’s violent rush on the U.S. Capitol.
This news comes after Amazon gave Parler about a day’s notice that it would be booted from its web hosting service—Amazon Web Services—by midnight this past Sunday. In an email from the AWS Trust and Safety team that Buzzfeed News managed to obtain, the company explained that it had seen “a steady increase in this violent content on your website, all of which violates our terms,” and that it “cannot provide services to a customer that is unable to effectively identify and remove content that encourages or incites violence against others.” (In response, Parler CEO John Matze announced in a Fox News interview that the site could be down “for a while.”)
In the suit, Parler supports its grand claims of an antitrust violation with, well, not a whole lot. For starters, it claims Amazon is in breach of contract for failing to provide 30 days’ notice before pulling the plug. This is, at best, a willful misreading of AWS’s terms, which are publicly available, and which give Amazon the option to revoke service at any time without notice if “you are, or any End User is, in breach of this Agreement.” Must have missed that section of the contract before escalating thing to Washington’s Western District Court. Whoops!
More puzzling, the suit claims Amazon didn’t boot Parler for its role in the Capitol riots that left five people dead, the various unmoderated posts which threatened violence ahead of that event, or the even more rampant threats that proliferated on the site afterwards. No, instead, the primary purpose, according to Parler, was because Parler was gaining too much of an edge on Twitter. As the docket reads:
When Twitter announced two evenings ago that it was permanently banning President Trump from its platform, conservative users began to flee Twitter en masse for Parler. The exodus was so large that the next day, yesterday, Parler became the number one free app downloaded from Apple’s App Store. [...] AWS’s decision to effectively 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.
What Amazon would possibly gain by acting on Twitter’s behalf is left a mystery. And while there’s truth to the fact that retrofitting Parler’s existing codebase and hardware would be time-consuming and possibly more expensive than it’s worth, the claim that “without AWS, Parler is finished as it has no way to get online,” at best ignores the long history of websites that existed prior to cloud computing.
Parler goes onto explain that AWS isn’t only violating the Sherman Antitrust act by taking its site down, but that it is “committing intentional interference” on the economic advantage that Parler was expected to gain, “given the millions of users” that were expected to flock to Parler “in the near future.” That seems unlikely to hold water, given that even this bit of speculation is undercut by Parler’s removal from both the App Store and Google Play Store.
We’ve reached out to Amazon for comment on... all of this, and will update the piece when we hear back.