- Amazon responded on Tuesday to a lawsuit filed by Parler that accused the tech giant of violating antitrust laws by banning the controversial social media platform from using Amazon Web Services.
- In its response, Amazon alleged that Parler violated its contract by refusing to remove more than 100 examples of violent content, including death threats against prominent Democrats, Republicans tech executives, and supporters of Black Lives Matter.
- Amazon also cited Section 230 as part of its defense against Parler’s claims that Amazon conspired with Twitter to hurt Parler’s business by kicking it off AWS.
- Major tech companies including Apple and Google cut ties with Parler this week amid revelations that far-right insurrectionists used the social media platform to organize and incite violence at the US Capitol.
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Amazon filed its response Tuesday to an antitrust suit brought against it by Parler, arguing that the social media upstart’s refusal to remove violent content from its platform violated its contract, and that Parler had failed to prove any antitrust claims.
Parler sued Amazon on Monday after the tech giant booted the platform from its web-hosting service, Amazon Web Services, amid public outcry over Parler’s role in enabling far-right insurrectionists to organize and plan last week’s attacks on the US Capitol.
“This case is not about suppressing speech or stifling viewpoints. It is not about a conspiracy to restrain trade,” Amazon claimed in the court filing. “Instead, this case is about Parler’s demonstrated unwillingness and inability to remove… content that threatens the public safety, such as by inciting and planning the rape, torture, and assassination of named public officials and private citizens.”
Parler did not respond to a request for comment on this story.
Amazon cited more than a dozen examples of content posted to Parler that it said violated Amazon’s policies.
“We are going to fight in a civil War on Jan.20th, Form MILITIAS now and acquire targets,” one post said, according to the document, while another read: “White people need to ignite their racial identity and rain down suffering and death like a hurricane.”
Other Parler posts cited included death threats against prominent Democrats such as former President Barack Obama, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, as well as Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google’s parent company Alphabet.
Parler users also took aim at people of color, Black Lives Matter activists, Jews, teachers, the media, and professional sports leagues including the NBA, NFL, MLB, and NHL.
“There is no legal basis in AWS’s customer agreements or otherwise to compel AWS to host content of this nature,” Amazon said, adding that it had notified Parler “repeatedly” beginning in mid-November 2020 about content that violated the terms of the two companies’ contract, but that Parler “was both unwilling and unable” to remove it.
Amazon also pushed back against Parler’s claims that Amazon’s actions were politically motivated and violated antitrust laws by deliberately favoring Twitter, which also uses AWS, and not taking similar action against it.
“AWS does not host Twitter’s feed, so of course it could not have suspended access to Twitter’s content,” Amazon said in the filing, noting that Twitter eventually blocked the violent content, while Parler refused to take similar steps.
Amazon also cited Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which gives companies that operate an “interactive computer service” the legal right to remove content as they see fit.
Parler rose to prominence in recent months as mainstream social media sites have faced increasing pressure to crack down on hate speech, misinformation, and calls for violence.
Following the US presidential election in November, Trump supporters flocked to alternative social networks, including Parler, to plan election protests after Facebook and other sites banned groups that pushed baseless conspiracies. From November 3 to November 9, Parler was downloaded around 530,000 times in the US, according to data from Apptopia.
As a pro-Trump mob violently seized the US Capitol building on Wednesday in an attack that left five dead, the armed rioters used Parler and other conservative-leaning social media apps to organize. Apptopia told Business Insider that Parler downloads spiked to around 323% of their average weekly volume from October.
But as revelations have emerged detailing how the insurrectionists leveraged Parler to carry out last week’s attacks, major tech companies have faced pressure to cut ties. Apple and Google both pulled the app from their app stores earlier this week, and Parler was forced to migrate its web hosting to Epik – a domain registrar known for hosting far-right extremist content – after being booted from AWS.