UPDATED: A federal judge denied a request by Parler, a social media app popular among Trump supporters that was knocked off the internet earlier this month, to force Amazon Web Services to reinstate its hosting contract.
On Sunday, Jan. 10, Amazon’s AWS division pulled Parler’s hosting services, with the e-commerce giant citing nearly 100 examples of violent threats on app in the wake of the attack on the U.S. Capitol. Parler sued the following day, alleging Amazon breached its contract and violated the Sherman Antitrust Act by supposedly colluding with Twitter in getting the app shut down.
Parler had sought a preliminary injunction to require Amazon’s AWS division to restore service to the app. In a ruling Wednesday (at this link), Judge Barbara Jacobs Rothstein of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington in Seattle denied the motion, finding that Parler failed to demonstrate that it is likely to prevail on the merits of its claims.
“The court rejects any suggestion that the public interest favors requiring AWS to host the incendiary speech that the record shows some of Parler’s users have engaged in,” the judge wrote in the ruling. “At this stage, on the showing made thus far, neither the public interest nor the balance of equities favors granting an injunction in this case.”
In addition, Rothstein rejected Parler’s allegation that Amazon colluded with Twitter to force the app offline. “Parler has submitted no evidence that AWS and Twitter acted together intentionally — or even at all — in restraint of trade,” she wrote.
Prior to AWS terminating its hosting contract, Parler was kicked off Apple and Google’s app stores, with both internet companies 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 with Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday” this week.
Parler’s website (but not its app) came back online late last week after the company transferred its domain name to Epik, a registrar that hosts Gab.com and the domain name for the Proud Boy’s former websites.
“We are disappointed by the judge’s ruling against our request for a preliminary injunction in our suit against Amazon AWS. We remain confident that we will ultimately prevail in the main case,” Parler said in a post on the site. It added, “Parler is disappointed that the court’s ruling ignored the reality that every social-media platform – including Amazon’s own online store – sometimes unwittingly hosts content that incites violence or is otherwise inappropriate.”
The two-year-old company has billed itself as a “free speech” alternative for conservatives to mainstream services like Twitter and Facebook. “Our return is inevitable due to hard work, and persistence against all odds,” Parler CEO John Matze wrote in a post on the site Monday. “Despite the threats and harassment not one Parler employee has quit. We are becoming closer and stronger as a team.”
Amazon, in a Jan. 12 court filing (at this link), said, “This case is not about suppressing speech or stifling viewpoints. It is not about a conspiracy to restrain trade.” Instead, the ecommerce company said, “this case is about Parler’s demonstrated unwillingness and inability to remove from the servers of Amazon Web Services (‘AWS’) content that threatens the public safety, such as by inciting and planning the rape, torture and assassination of named public officials and private citizens.”
Several Parler users participated in the assault on the U.S. Capitol, according to multiple reports. After the app’s shutdown, one developer has launched an interactive online map using GPS metadata and about 50 videos that were posted on Parler during the attack, Motherboard reported.