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Jan 12, 2021

Amazon tells U.S. court booting Parler after Capitol riot was justified

Twitter banning Trump is not a violation of the first amendment: Wedbush Securities' Pachter

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Amazon.com Inc. urged a judge not to order the company to restore web-hosting service to Parler LLC, saying the conservative social media platform failed to police violent content before and after the Capitol riot.

Amazon Web Services suspended service for Parler after it was used by supporters of President Donald Trump to organize the storming of the U.S. Capitol last week. Parler sued, asking a federal judge in Seattle to order AWS to reinstate its web-hosting immediately. Amazon objected to the move late Tuesday.

“Compelling AWS to host content that plans, encourages, and incites violence would be unprecedented,” the company said in a court filing.

Parler said in its antitrust complaint that pulling the plug on its social network is life-threatening to the company. As an alternative to Twitter, it argues that AWS’s actions reduce competition in social media. Parler’s web traffic had surged as Twitter and Facebook have made efforts to curb inflammatory content. Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google removed Parler from their app stores over the weekend.

Two Amazon executives whose names were redacted submitted statements in support of Amazon’s request to deny Parler’s request for a temporary order to reinstate web-hosting service. Both described Parler users “posting threats of physical violence to Amazon delivery drivers, Amazon facilities, and Amazon executives.” They each wrote: “As a result of these threats and similar threats against employees of other companies that have suspended Parler or others from their services, I am concerned for my safety, as well as the safety of my colleagues.”

Another Amazon executive said the company started investigating violent threats on Parler in November and reported more than 100 pieces of content over the next seven weeks, but the site never took action. After the events at the Capitol, Amazon “notified Parler of additional content that threatened or encouraged violence” and emphasized the need to take such posts down, the executive said.

The executive said that Parler responded by proposing to have volunteers identify content that would be forwarded to a “jury” to decide whether it should be taken down. Amazon said that the company’s chief executive officer had stated publicly that Parler would do “as little content moderation as possible” and that there was an uptick in violent threats on the site.

‘Real Concern’

“We explained that given the events at the U.S. Capitol Building and the threats regarding the upcoming inauguration, we had real concern about this content leading to more violence,” the Amazon executive said. “We were clear that Parler needed to have a robust and effective process for identifying and removing content that threatened or encouraged violence, and that it was employing very few resources toward this effort, which we did not believe would be effective.”

Parler’s chances of succeeding with the suit are slim, Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Jennifer Rie wrote. The suit “lacks basic facts that must be plead to sustain such claims,” Rie said. “The dispute is a commercial one, if anything, yet Parler’s breach of contract claims seem weak too.”

U.S. District Judge Barbara Rothstein set a hearing for Thursday at 10 a.m. in Seattle.

AWS said in Tuesday’s filing that it has suspended and not terminated Parler’s account, and explained that the companies’ agreement requires Parler to ensure that its content doesn’t violate AWS policies -- or the law. “It was Parler who breached the agreement, by hosting content advocating violence and failing to timely take that content down,” AWS said in the filing.

David J. Groesbeck, a Spokane, Washington-based lawyer representing Parler, had no immediate comment Tuesday evening.

AWS is by far the largest cloud-computing provider, and its on-demand software services are the backbone for many of the most popular internet services. Parler has ”no other options” to be on the web, it said in the suit.

The case is Parler LLC v. Amazon Web Services Inc., 21-cv-00031, U.S. District Court, Western District of Washington.