It seems that Parler may return online sooner than expected. The "anything goes" clone of Twitter has registered its domain name with Epik, according to VICE, after all its other service providers cut ties last week, causing the website to fall offline.
Parler was favored by a growing number of conservatives for its loose moderation that contrasted with increasing crackdowns on Twitter and Facebook. It's believed that far-right extremist content on the site contributed to last Wednesday's deadly riots at the U.S. Capitol. In response, both Apple and Google pulled Parler's app from their respective stores, and the final blow came when Amazon Web Services announced it would stop hosting the website on Sunday at midnight.
Not even President Trump has been safe from consequences as the major platforms have begun cutting him off in quick succession, including his favorite megaphone, Twitter, which finally moved to ban him permanently for inciting the violence.
Far-right hosting — Fortunately for Parler, it may be able to find refuge with Epik. The company provides both domain name registration as well as web hosting services, and it's already home to Gab, another far-right social network for the deplatformed. That site briefly went offline in October 2018 after the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting. It was discovered that a user on Gab, Robert Bowers, had posted a message indicating an intent to cause harm before he took out the shooting. After GoDaddy and hosting provider Joyent cut off service, Epik swooped in and saved Gab.
In a statement on its site, Epik acknowledged that Parler has transferred its domain to the company, but "to date, no communication has been received by them for discussion of future service provision." The company did, however, use its statement to attack the major social media companies over their increased moderation.
Parler has since sued Amazon for ending service, claiming that the company is violating antitrust laws by taking it offline while still providing hosting to Twitter. The ability for major service providers to quickly nuke a company out of orbit is concerning, to be sure, though as a private company it's well within Amazon's rights to express its own freedom of speech.
A spokesperson for Amazon Web Services provided the following statement to Input:
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.
Living in obscurity — Reducing the power of monopolistic tech giants has bipartisan support — it would enable more open competition. But even if Amazon and Apple saw their power reduced by regulation, market forces would still make it difficult for extremist sites like Parler to survive. Brand advertisers don't want to be associated with harmful content, and smaller providers like payments processors risk losing customers if they're discovered to be facilitating transactions for an extremist site.
There's only so much money MyPillow can spend to keep these alt social networks afloat. For revenue, Gab has had to resort mostly to user contributions through obscure cryptocurrency networks.
Epik has clearly decided to corner the market for extremist hosting. Besides Gab it also serves Bitchute, a far-right YouTube, and InfoWars, the conspiracy theory site ran by Alex Jones.