Parler is gone as Amazon stops hosting

Since Parler was barred from both Apple and Google app stores for failing to curtail abusive and threatening posts on its website, the social media site is now totally offline as a result of Amazon’s termination of Parler’s web hosting services. The official Parler website now returns a 403 error when its app shows networking errors and cannot load content.

Amazon told Parler about his decision late Saturday, in a letter to Chief Policy Officer Amy Peikoff. Its Amazon Web Service (AWS) “cannot provide services to the customers that are unable to effectively identify and remove content that encourages or incites violence against others,” says the letter to Peikoff, noting that Parler “poses a very real risk to public safety.”

Posts on Parler that promoted unrest leading up to the Capitol attack on Wednesday that left five people dead were shared on other websites in the aftermath of the riot.

According to the AWS policy of appropriate use, consumers should not use its services “for any illegal, harmful, fraudulent, infringing, or offensive use.”

Parler was launched in 2018, positioning itself as a free expression haven and an alternative to other social media platforms. The site has seen its user numbers spike in recent months, with Twitter and Facebook tightening their moderation policies, notably about election and coronavirus content. The “Stop the Steal” campaign opposing President Trump’s defeat gathered traction among Parler users, as did other conspiratorial hypotheses around the election. Parler’s less stringent filtering practices have been part of its attraction to many consumers, but the lack of content moderation is a significant reason why businesses have discontinued their services.

When it pulled Parler out of the Play Store, Google said that while a reasonable debate on the content policy was possible, and it might be hard for apps to remove content from the Play Store immediately, “For us to distribute the app through Google Play, it does require apps to deliver robust moderation on content.” Apple told the company that “the processes Parler has put in place to moderate or prevent the spread of dangerous and illegal content have proved insufficient. Specifically, we have continued to find direct threats of violence and calls to incite lawless action.”

Even with the app excluded from the Play Store, users could still install Parler on their Android devices by installing and uploading it directly from the Parler website. However, with its AWS services now disabled, the website and apps are no longer working.

Parler CEO John Matze said in a post on Parler late Saturday that he believes Amazon, Google, and Apple “worked together to try and ensure they don’t have competition.”

Perhaps the most well-known recent case of a forum being de-platformed for abusive content was the Gab social network. After a gunman killed eleven people in the Pittsburgh synagogue in 2018, PayPal forbade Gab from his website after it was discovered that Robert Bowers had put anti-Semitic threats on Gab before the shooting. Apple denied Gab’s offer to feature in its App Store in 2016, and Twitter disabled Gab’s access to its API. Google launched the Gab app from the Play Store in 2017 for breaching its hate speech ban, and AWS broke ties with Gab in 2019 for violating its hateful content policy.