Apple said it will allow Parler, the social app popular among conservatives as a so-called “free speech” alternative to mainstream services, to be published again in the App Store — citing Parler’s improved ability to remove hate speech and posts inciting violence.
“Apple anticipates that the updated Parler app will become available immediately upon Parler releasing it,” Apple said in a letter sent Monday to members of Congress.
In the days after the deadly pro-Trump riot at the Capitol, Apple pulled Parler from the App Store, citing threats of violence and illegal activity on the app.
Apple “looked at the incitement to violence that was on [the Parler app] and… we don’t consider that free speech,” CEO Tim Cook said in an interview on “Fox News Sunday” in January.
The tech giant’s move to reinstate Parler is a “huge win for free speech,” Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) tweeted Monday, along with the text of the letter. Apple addressed the letter to Buck and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), who last month had formally queried Apple about the app’s suspension.
Google also suspended Parler from its own app store, Google Play, but that had less impact than Apple’s temporary ban because an Android version is available to download directly from Parler’s site.
In addition, on Jan. 10, Amazon’s AWS division terminated Parler’s hosting services contract — citing nearly 100 examples of violent threats on the app that Parler had not acted to remove. Parler has since moved to a new hosting provider. Meanwhile, John Matze, the former CEO of Parler, said he was fired after he urged the company’s board to adopt stricter content-moderation policies.
In the April 19 letter, Apple said its App Review Team had found “a significant number of posts on the Parler app that clearly violated” its guidelines prohibiting objectionable content, including “posts that encouraged violence, denigrated various ethnic groups, races and religions, glorified Nazism, and called for violence against specific people.”
Since the app’s removal in January, Apple’s App Review Team engaged in “substantial conversations” with Parler, which proposed updates to its content-moderation practices — and which passed muster with Apple, per the letter.
According to the letter, Apple reviews 100,000 app submissions weekly and rejects 40% of those because of “guideline-compliance issues” (mostly for programming bugs).
Execs from Apple and Google are scheduled to testify at a Senate subcommittee hearing this Wednesday (April 22) about app store competition.