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Updated Thursday 15:37 ET
A federal judge has refused to reinstate social media site Parler after Amazon fired the company from its web hosting services for content believed to incite violence.
The decision is a blow to Parler, a pop-up who won over Trump loyalists for his relatively practical approach to content moderation. The company is suing Amazon for its ban, demanding a refund.
U.S. District Judge Barbara Rothstein sided with Amazon, which said Parler would not remove positions that endangered public safety even after the attack on the U.S. Capitol, and that Amazon had the right to punish the company for refusing.
“The court rejects any suggestion that the public interest favors the requirement for AWS to host the inflammatory speech in which the recording shows that some of Parler’s users were involved. supports the issuance of an order in this case, “Rothstein wrote on Thursday.
Parler’s looser rules also involve far-right activists among about 15 million users, who the company said posted messages before Amazon pulled the plug.
This philosophy has been met with claims that social media platforms have been held accountable for allowing rebels to discuss plans to storm the Capitol on the day Congress confirmed the election of President Joe Biden.
Shortly after the January 6 attack, Parler began to feel the pressure. First, Google and Apple banned it from their app stores, making it almost impossible to download the app. Then Amazon’s web hosting services, Amazon Web Services, terminated Parler’s account.
Parler filed a lawsuit, arguing that the crackdown on Amazon was caused by “political animus.” Parler claims that the technology giant abused its power and tried to kill the competitor.
In a statement to the court, Parler said that the severance of Amazon’s ties threatened Parler with “disappearance”.
A Parler lawyer wrote that the last six web hosts the company contacted refused to work with the site.
Yet the website has recently returned as essentially nothing more than a welcome page. He promised to return soon with the message: “We will not let the civil discourse perish!”
In its defense, Amazon sees the matter as a simple breach of contract. The company has reported more than 100 pieces of content that promotes violence that violates its policies, and Parler has failed to remove the posts, according to Amazon’s lawyers. Posts cited by Amazon include violent threats against Jack Dorsey on Twitter, Mark Zuckerberg on Facebook and Democratic leaders.
In defense of its decision to launch Parler from its web services, Amazon cited section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, the much-discussed federal law of 1996 that prevents people from suing Internet companies for what consumers post.
The law also allows technology companies to create and enforce rules about what is allowed and what is forbidden on their sites.
“That’s exactly what AWS has done here: it has removed access to content it considers ‘excessive violence’ and ‘harassment,'” Amazon lawyers wrote in a statement.
In her view, Rothstein agreed with Amazon, ruling that Parler’s antitrust claim was “slightly diminishing” and that the argument for breach of contract “failed.” She wrote that Parler, not Amazon, had breached the terms of the contract.
She pointed to the rebels who stormed the Capitol and documented their violence against Parler.
“The Court expressly rejects any suggestion that the stock balance or the public interest favors AWS’s obligation to host the offensive and violent content of the case, especially in light of the recent Capitol riots in the United States,” Rothstein wrote. “This event was a tragic reminder that inflammatory rhetoric could – faster and easier than many of us would hope – turn a legitimate protest into a violent uprising.”
Parler’s claim appears to have been settled hastily. The judge complained to the company that it had not properly served Amazon’s case. And in the complaint, Parler claims that Amazon did not retaliate on Twitter when a hashtag briefly appeared on the site, suggesting violence against former Vice President Mike Pence. But Amazon, as it was quick to point out, is not hosting the Twitter show.
David Grossbeck, a lawyer representing Parler, wrote that the company’s hope that it could quickly find a new web hosting service did not materialize, creating a terrible situation that Parler’s CEO said could mean the death of site.
“The notoriety and consequences of the break-up repelled current and potential business partners, completely disappointing Parler’s plans to end the rapid recovery and AWS recovery early,” Groesbeck wrote in a recent submission.
Parler, which is funded in part by Rebecca Mercer, a major donor to former President Donald Trump, has discussed having its own servers and maintaining its own web hosting. Trump also came up with the idea to launch his own social media service after Twitter suspended it.
Disinformation researchers say Parler’s suspension of Amazon eliminates a key place to gather and discuss conspiracy-related elections that Trump has often fueled.
“The reason we face this corporate denial of service is that there really are no other levers to stop this group of people from coming together and trying it again, or trying something else that is just as dangerous.” says Joan Donovan, an expert on online extremism at Harvard. “It will be really important when making these decisions to stick to them and not return them once the heat is off.”
Editor’s note: Amazon is among the latest financial supporters of NPR.