Embattled social network and haven for right-wing rage, Parler, is suing Amazon after the retail giant's web services division (AWS) cut Parler off in at 11:59 p.m PT on Sunday. In papers filed today (but dated for yesterday, January 10) in Seattle, Washington, the social network argues Amazon has overstepped its boundaries and is illegitimately prejudicing Parler, because Twitter — which has also been home to hate-filled calls for violence, continues to be hosted by Amazon.
The full document outline Parler's case follows below:
Click here to read the court papers.
The AWS position — In a statement to Input on Monday, an AWS spokesperson said, “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."
Parler wants AWS to ban Twitter, too — Parler is seeking an injunction, arguing that if Twitter is still allowed on AWS, it should be too.
This is a civil action for injunctive relief, including a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunctive relief, and damages. Last Month, Defendant Amazon Web Services, Inc. (“AWS”) and the popular social media platform Twitter signed a multi-year deal so that AWS could support the daily delivery of millions of tweets. AWS currently provides that same service to Parler, a conservative microblogging alternative and competitor to Twitter.
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.
Yet last evening, AWS announced that it would suspend Parler’s account effective Sunday, January 10th, at 11:59 PM PST. And it stated the reason for the suspension was that AWS was not confident Parler could properly police its platform regarding content that encourages or incites violence against others.
However, Friday night one of the top trending tweets on Twitter was “Hang Mike Pence.” But AWS has no plans nor has it made any threats to suspend Twitter’s account.
Invoking antirust — Parler goes on to argue that Amazon's decision to halt service for Parler's site is the result of "political animus" and that the move is designed to "reduce competition in the microblogging services market to the benefit of Twitter."
Thus, AWS is violating Section 1 of the Sherman Antitrust Act in combination with Defendant Twitter. AWS is also breaching it contract with 7 Parler, which requires AWS to provide Parler with a thirty-day notice before terminating service, rather than the less than thirty-hour notice AWS actually provided. Finally, AWS is committing intentional interference with prospective economic advantage given the millions of users expected to sign up in the near future.
Parler is attempting to secure a temporary restraining order to prevent AWS from ceasing service. It says allowing it to do 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."
An alleged conspiracy — According to Parler, with a large number of Republican politicians and right-wing personalities and pundits moving to Parler after Twitter removed outgoing President Donald Trump's personal Twitter account, AWS decided to shut Parler down because it's in cahoots with Twitter.
Given the context of Parler’s looming threat to Twitter and the fact that the Twitter ban might not long muzzle the President if he switched to Parler, potentially bringing tens of millions of followers with him, AWS moved to shut down Parler.
It further alleges that by not giving Parler 30 days of notice of its intention to suspend its service, AWS is in breach of contract and that it wants to "intentionally interfere with the contracts Parler has with millions of its present users, as well as the users it is projected to gain this week," the legal term for which is "tortious interference."
A bad week for hatemongers — It's been a terrible week for Parler, which last week saw both Google and Apple remove its app from their respective app stores for its unwillingness to remove objectionable — and potentially, illegal — content from its platform, its inability to effectively moderate user content in violation of app store terms of service, and its CEO John Matze's public statements that neither he nor Parler should be responsible for content inciting violence on the platform.
Matze initially took to Parler to lash out against Apple and Google, but when it became clear Amazon was about to potentially ruin his business overnight, he backtracked enthusiastically, releasing a laughable statement that tried to position Parler as a place that "strives to bring people together and find common ground, peace and healing."
Parler has since its inception positioned itself as a service that welcomes conspiracy theorists, Trumpists, anti-semites, and disgraced politicians (some of whom are all of the above) to digitally congregate and share their disdain for the democratic process, and their desire to overthrow it, with violence if necessary. As such, it's also been a treasure trove for those looking to identify those responsible for last week's attack on the Capitol Building that left five people dead. Fortunately, Parler's lack of security means most of its content has been scraped and archived, and will likely prove invaluable in bringing the domestic terrorists it emboldened to justice.
Bad news for Parler, good news for civility — Parler says it's tried in vain to find an alternative service to AWS, but hasn't been able to do so. It argues that unless the courts intervene and force Amazon to host it, Trump will find another service, as will its existing users, and Parler will wither away.
Parler has tried to find alternative companies to host it and they have fallen through. It has no other options. Without AWS, Parler is finished as it has no way to get online.
What is more, Parler’s current users are likely to leave and go to another platform if Parler is down for an indefinite period. And once those users have begun to use another platform, they may not return to Parler once it’s back online.
Is it worrying that big tech means a handful of people have the power to cut off rival services and force services like Parler offline? Absolutely. Facebook, Twitter, Google, Amazon, and the rest need to have their wings clipped and their immense power checked. The problem extends beyond this incident, however, and it's also part of the reason Trump was able to spew falsehoods and hateful rhetoric unconstrained for four years. Working out how to strike a balance between freedom of speech and making it more difficult for terrorists to plot and scheme is going to take time, though.
We've learned that taking off all the restraints leads to people setting up gallows at the Capitol Building. A few weeks of excessive caution doesn't seem like the worst idea.
UPDATE (9 p.m. ET): An AWS spokesman provided comment which we've included.