Amazon will not be required to immediately restore web service to Parler after a federal judge ruled Thursday against a plea to reinstate the fast-growing social media app.
U.S. District Judge Barbara Rothstein in Seattle said she wasn’t dismissing Parler’s “substantive underlying claims” against Amazon, but said it had fallen short in demonstrating the need for an injunction forcing it back online.
Amazon kicked Parler off its web-hosting service on Jan. 11.
The social media app sued to get back online, arguing that Amazon had breached its contract and abused its market power.
It said Trump was likely on the brink of joining the platform, following a wave of his followers who flocked to the app after Twitter and Facebook expelled Trump following the Jan. 6 incursion into the U.S. Capitol.
Parler CEO John Matze asserted in a court filing that Parler’s abrupt shutdown was motivated at least partly by “a desire to deny President Trump a platform on any large social-media service.” Matze said Trump had contemplated joining the network as early as October under a pseudonym.
Amazon denied its move to pull the plug on Parler had anything to do with political animus. It claimed that Parler had breached its business agreement “by hosting content advocating violence and failing to timely take that content down.”
Parler was formed in May 2018, according to Nevada business records, with what co-founder Rebekah Mercer later described as the goal of creating “a neutral platform for free speech” away from “the tyranny and hubris of our tech overlords.”
Amazon said the company signed up for its cloud computing services about a month later, thereby agreeing to its rules against dangerous content.
Matze told the court that Parler has “no tolerance for inciting violence or lawbreaking” and has relied on volunteer “jurors” to flag problem posts and vote on whether they should be removed.
More recently, he said the company informed Amazon it would soon begin using artificial intelligence to automatically pre-screen posts for inappropriate content, as bigger social media companies do.
Google and Apple were the first tech giants to take action against Parler. Both companies temporarily banned the smartphone app from their app stores. But people who had already downloaded the Parler app were still able to use it until Amazon Web Services pulled the plug on the website.
Parler has stayed online by maintaining its internet registration through Epik, a U.S. company owned by libertarian businessman Rob Monster. Epik has previously hosted 8chan, an online message board.
Parler didn’t return requests for comment this week about its future plans. Though its website is back, it hasn’t restored its app or social network. Matze has said it will be difficult to restore service because the site had been so dependent on Amazon engineering, and Amazon’s action has turned off other potential vendors.
The case has offered a rare window into Amazon’s influence over the workings of the internet. Parler also argued in its lawsuit that Amazon violated antitrust laws by colluding with Twitter to quash the upstart social media app.
Amazon said Twitter doesn’t use its cloud services to power its main feed, though it will in the future.
Rothstein has been on the Seattle-based court since her 1980 appointment by Democratic President Jimmy Carter.
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