Parler, the conservative social media platform whose traffic has surged amid a crackdown on inflammatory content by its rivals, suedAmazon.com Inc. for ending web-hosting service for the site in the wake of rioting at the U.S. Capitol last week.
The self-described “microblogging alternative and competitor to Twitter” was taken offline early Monday morning by Amazon’s cloud services division.Apple Inc. andAlphabet Inc.’s Google had withdrawn Parler from their app stores over the weekend.
Amazon’s action “is the equivalent of pulling the plug on a hospital patient on life support,” Parler said in a lawsuit filed Monday in federal court in Seattle, seeking an order forcing Amazon Web Services to maintain its account. AWS “will kill Parler’s business — at the very time it is set to skyrocket,” according to the suit.
A spokesperson for AWS declined to comment on the suit. In a letter to Parler filed with the court, Amazon said it couldn’t provide services to “a customer that is unable to effectively identify and remove content that encourages or incites violence.”
The lawsuit comes amid longstanding battles between President Donald Trump and social media platforms likeTwitter Inc. andFacebook Inc. that have thrived on his populist messages but also been severely criticized for enabling him. Many Trump supporters have moved to Parler to avoid what they see as censorship by Twitter.
In the suit, Parler alleges an antitrust infraction.
“Less than a month ago, AWS and Parler’s competitor, Twitter, entered into a multi-year deal,” according to the suit. “Late Friday evening, Twitter banned President Trump from using its platform, thereby driving enormous numbers of its users to Parler. Twenty-four hours later, AWS announced it would indefinitely suspend Parler’s account.”
Read More: Parler Site Offline After Amazon Web Services Pulls Hosting
Parler claims that by suspending its account, AWS “will remove from the market a surging player, severely restraining commerce in the microblogging services market.”
Alan Sykes, a professor at Stanford Law School, said if it turns out that Twitter prevailed on Amazon to ban Parler, the microblogger’s complaint could amount to a legitimate antitrust claim.
Amazon’s decision to remove Parler for its potential to foment violence “is a non-anticompetitive, legitimate reason to take someone off the web service,” Sykes said. “Whoever hears the case will have to decide whether the plaintiffs made out a plausible case of conspiracy between Amazon and Twitter.”
“This concern for violence might justify taking Parler off for a while, but it’s not clear that it could justify a permanent ban,” Sykes added. After Trump leaves office and the dust settles, “if Amazon continues the ban indefinitely, that would strengthen the inference of a conspiracy.”
Parler is asking U.S. District Judge Barbara Rothstein to act immediately and issue a temporary order to keep the site going while the litigation plays out. Rothstein, who was appointed by President Jimmy Carter, set deadlines for the two sides to submit briefs Tuesday and Wednesday.
Parler also claims that AWS broke its contract, which it says requires more notice of termination, and illegally interfered in its relationship with its customers. In addition, Parler accuses AWS of “political animus,” saying the company took no action against Twitter while the rioters’ chant phrase “Hang Mike Pence” was a top-trending tweet.
In the week after Election Day, Nov. 3, Parler became the top free app in Apple’s iOS App Store, up from No. 1,023 just a week earlier, according to the suit. It said installs increased 355% after Twitter said it would permanently ban Trump.
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.
The case is Parler LLC v. Amazon Web Services Inc., 21-cv-00031, U.S. District Court, Western District of Washington.
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