Parler sues Amazon alleging act of ‘political animus’ after AWS, Twilio, Zendesk suspensions

James is editor in chief of TechForge Media, with a passion for how technologies influence business and several Mobile World Congress events under his belt. James has interviewed a variety of leading figures in his career, from former Mafia boss Michael Franzese, to Steve Wozniak, and Jean Michel Jarre. James can be found tweeting at @James_T_Bourne.

Updated 13 Jan Parler, the social network popular with supporters of President Trump, has found itself silenced after various technology and hosting providers cut ties following the riots on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.

Amazon Web Services (AWS), on whose cloud Parler was hosted, told the company in an email, first reported by BuzzFeed, that it planned to suspend its account because it ‘[could not] provide services to a customer that is unable to effectively identify and remove content that encourages or incites violence against others.’

The email noted that this was not a snap decision: the AWS trust and safety team noted reporting incidents to Parler ‘over the past several weeks.’

Previously, Apple and Google had confirmed they were no longer listing Parler in their respective app stores.

John Matze, CEO of Parler, posted – before the shutdown – that the company ‘prepared for events like this by never relying on amazons (sic) proprietary infrastructure and building bare metal products’, and was expecting to be offline for up to a week.

“We will try our best to move to a new provider right now as we have many competing for our business, however Amazon, Google and Apple purposefully did this as a coordinated effort knowing our options would be limited and knowing this would inflict the most damage right as President Trump was banned from the tech companies,” he added.

In a subsequent interview with Fox News, Matze said ‘every vendor, from text message services, to email providers, to our lawyers, all ditched us… on the same day.’

Regarding the text messages, Twilio has followed suit, as reported by the Telegraph. A statement from the company said its terms of service ‘make clear what we expect from our customers.’

“Based on activity on the Parler platform, we determined they were in violation of our AUP (acceptable use policy), specifically prohibiting the spread of disinformation, encouraging violence, destruction of property and other illegal activity, threatening public safety, and harming Twilio’s reputation,” the statement added.

A user on Reddit raised a concern about Parler’s use of Zendesk, to which a staffer replied: “Zendesk has a user content and conduct policy which all customers are required to abide to. If you ever see a violation of that policy occur, feel free to flag to through the process outlined above, though we are aware of your concern via this post.” A Zendesk spokesperson told CloudTech that Parler’s account had been suspended as of 11:59pm on January 10 as a result of violations of the company’s user content and conduct policy.

Okta, a provider of identity and access management (IAM) software, has also terminated Parler’s account. The company tweeted on January 10: “We were notified that Parler was using a free trial of Okta’s product and we have terminated Parler’s access to the Okta platform. While we support organisations across the political spectrum, our platform will not be used for threats of violence and illegal activity.”

The siege on the US Capitol building saw five people die, including a US Capitol police officer. Democrats are looking to either impeach President Trump or oust him using the 25th Amendment, which allows the vice president to take over if the president is unable to perform his duties owing to physical or mental illness. A statement from Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer urged the president be removed for ‘his incitement of insurrection.’

Amazon employees had previously raised concerns about having Parler as an AWS customer. The Amazon Employees For Climate Justice Twitter account posted on Jan 9: “As Amazon workers, we demand Amazon deny Parler services until it removes posts inciting violence, including at the Presidential inauguration. We cannot be complicit in more bloodshed and violent attacks on our democracy.”

Update 12 Jan: Parler has filed a lawsuit against Amazon, alleging its account suspension reduces competition and breaches agreed terms of service. The document (pdf), first reported by The Hill, says AWS’ decision to terminate Parler’s account was “apparently motivated by political animus.” AWS’ recent multi-year deal announcement with Twitter was cited as a case of interference.

The document also casts doubt on Matze’s previous assertion over ‘many [vendors] competing for [Parler’s] business’. “Worse than the timing is the result – Parler has tried to find alternative companies to host it and they have fallen through,” the document notes. “It has no other options. Without AWS, Parler is finished as it has no way to get online.”

An Amazon spokesperson told the BBC there was ‘no merit’ to these claims.

Update 13 Jan: Amazon has filed a counter-response (pdf) to the Parler suit, which notes AWS first received reports of content being hosted which threatened violence – alleging a breach of the services agreement – in mid-November. The social network first began using AWS in June 2018.

Suspension, the document notes, was ‘a last resort.’ “There is no legal basis in AWS’s customer agreements or otherwise to compel AWS to host content of this nature,” the document reads. “AWS notified Parler repeatedly that its content violated the parties’ agreement, requested removal, and reviewed Parler’s plan to address the problem, only to determine that Parler was both unwilling and unable to do so.

“Parler’s own failures left AWS little choice but to suspend Parler’s account,” it adds.

Picture credit: (c)iStock.com/BackyardProduction

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2 comments on “Parler sues Amazon alleging act of ‘political animus’ after AWS, Twilio, Zendesk suspensions

  1. John Davis on

    Which riots on the capitol happened? No buildings burned. Watch the videos. Police literally helped people into the Capitol building and held the doors open for them. Sure, things got rowdy once inside but it was a peaceful protest with a couple rowdy people.

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