In 2018, conservative computer programmers John Matze and Jared Thomson developed a social media platform called Parler. The app had financial backing from the daughter of a co-founder of Cambridge Analytica, a British consulting firm involved in a Facebook data breach the same year.
The Twitter-style social media platform didn’t really take off until the fall of 2020. Around the time of the presidential election, millions of users signed up for the app, which touted itself as a neutral platform for free speech.
The bulk of the users were President Donald Trump’s supporters and right-wing conservatives. Many joined in response to conservatives, including the president, being “shadowbanned” and censored on channels such as Twitter and Facebook. Conservative politicians, far-right activists and television and radio personalities became active on the platform as well.
Following the failed insurrection on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, major social media channels, including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok, began to ban Trump and other accounts deemed to be inciting violence.
On Jan. 8, Apple gave Parler 24 hours to establish content moderation that would crack down on posts calling for violence and illegal activities. The same day, Google removed the Parler app from the Google Play store, making it unavailable for download on Android devices, without providing any options for the company.
On Jan. 9, Apple released a statement before removing Parler from the App Store.
“We have always supported diverse points of view being represented on the App Store,” the Apple App Review Board said in a statement, “but there is no place on our platform for threats of violence and illegal activity. 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.”
Although the app had been removed from both Android and iOS platform download sources, users who had already downloaded Parler were still able to use it. The browser-based platform was still accessible, as well.
However, on Jan. 10, Amazon announced it was booting Parler from Amazon Web Services at 11:59 p.m.
“Recently, we’ve seen a steady increase in this violent content on your website, all of which violates our terms. It’s clear that Parler does not have an effective process to comply with the AWS terms of service,” Amazon’s Trust and Safety Team stated in an email to Parler Chief Policy Officer Amy Peikoff, according to BuzzFeed News. “AWS provides technology and services to customers across the political spectrum, and we continue to respect Parler’s right to determine for itself what content it will allow on its site. However, we cannot provide services to a customer that is unable to effectively identify and remove content that encourages or incites violence against others. Because Parler cannot comply with our terms of service and poses a very real risk to public safety, we plan to suspend Parler’s account effective Sunday, January 10th, at 11:59 PM PST.”
Amazon’s move caused Parler to go offline completely without an infrastructure to support it. Unless the company is able to find another service willing to host it, the social media app is not expected to come back.
“Every vendor from text message services to email providers to our lawyers all ditched us too on the same day,” Matze told Fox News, saying that the events could put Parler out of business.
On Jan. 11, Parler filed a lawsuit against Amazon in the U.S. District Court in Seattle alleging that the suspension violated antitrust law and breached its contractual agreement. Amazon asserts that there is no merit to the claims.