Parler – the conservative social media platform that claims to be a "free speech" alternative to sites like Twitter – was banned from its Amazon web hosting service after midnight Sunday, ending up with a website that has become a hub of extremism for the time being .
Amazon's decision, first reported by BuzzFeed News on Saturday, came after the Apple App Store and Google Play Store decided to remove Parler from their respective app stores this week to limit potential reach.
The urge to crack down on Parler follows Twitter and Facebook's decisions this week to ban President Donald Trump from their platforms to incite violence – and in doing so, robs the president of an alternative to these services. Many conservatives affected by these platforms have fled to Parler in recent months.
It's a sudden demise of the app, which has been scrutinized for its role in providing a forum for extremists who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, killing at least five people.
Before the attack, Trump supporters used Parler, as well as services like Gab and the online forum TheDonald.win, a Reddit-like spin-off based on a community that had previously been banned from the Reddit main page, to conduct their attack to plan.
"WE THE PEOPLE … are through with you," a parler post said before the violence on Wednesday, according to the Washington Post. “For all our enemies high and low do you want a war? Well, you ask for one. … For the local American people in DC today and everywhere in this great nation, be prepared for anything. "
Amazon's decision to remove Parler from its Amazon Web Services cloud hosting service effectively removed the website from the internet.
Finding alternative hosting isn't impossible for Parler – there are other such services, although, according to Verge, Amazon Web Services controls the lion's share of cloud hosting and serves about 40 percent of the internet.
But it doesn't look like it's going to happen right away. In a Saturday night post on the website shared by CNN's Brian Fung on Twitter, Parler CEO John Matze said that "there is a possibility that Parler will not be available on the internet for up to a week" after Amazon had decided. Parler may also have to rebuild parts of its app, further delaying a possible comeback.
"This was a coordinated attack by the tech giants to kill competition in the marketplace," wrote Matze. "You can expect the war on competition and free speech to continue, but don't count us out."
Widespread calls for violence – and a refusal to moderate it in any meaningful way – Parler rolled back on the app stores as well. Apple's ban comes after the website failed to provide Apple with a stricter content moderation plan to counter violent rhetoric.
And Google offered a similar rationale on Friday, describing Parler's function as a hub for violent extremism as "an ongoing and urgent threat to public safety."
Parler has a problem with right-wing extremist violence
Some Parler users did themselves a disservice in their response to news of Amazon's decision on Saturday, instead highlighting the reason Amazon acted in the first place.
In a post by BuzzFeed's John Paczkowski, a Parler user says Amazon's decision "sounds like war".
"It would be a shame if someone trained in explosives were to visit some AWS data centers whose location is publicly known," wrote Parler user @ronglaister on Saturday.
It is posts of this nature that underscore the central problem with Parler – and likely what drove big tech companies to action this week.
Although Parler ranks itself as a platform for free expression, its status as a Twitter alternative means that it has attracted a certain type of language since its inception in 2018. Specifically, the kind of language the average user would be excluded from on Twitter – disinformation, white supremacism, anti-Semitism, and downright calls for violence.
It's worth noting that, like the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in a November post on the website, Parler is "not an extremist platform in and of itself," and that its users encompass a wide range of conservatism and other ideologies.
However, as the ADL points out, "the website hosts a significant and growing number of users who abide by a variety of mostly right-wing extremist ideologies." And these users seem to have got Parler into trouble.
Not only was violence planned and instigated on the premises before extremists stormed the Capitol on Wednesday and killed a Capitol police officer, but there was further planning ahead of President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration on January 20.
"Many of us will return with our guns on January 19th, 2021 to support the resolve of our nation that the world will never forget !!!" According to NPR, a user wrote to Parler this week after Wednesday's attack. "We will come in numbers that no standing army or police force can compete with."
Another user used Parler before the attack to get feedback on who should kill the insurgents first, according to BuzzFeed News.
"Who would you like to see" shipped "first? 1) Nancy Pelosi 2) John Roberts 3) Pence 4) Others (please name) I leaned over to Nancy, but it may have to be pence,” they wrote along with a GIF of a noose .
This particular threat made the leap into the real world: Pro-Trump insurgents erected a gallows outside the Capitol on Wednesday, other nooses were found around the hill, and the mob sang "Hang Pence".
The reason I keep thinking of the gallows erected outside the Capitol is because it appeared to be * an actual gallows * with a noose and platform. And I really wonder if this was meant for something more than just … symbolism. pic.twitter.com/QIAHvO69Ou
– Chris Hayes (@chrislhayes) January 9, 2021
Parler's abolition will unfortunately not put an end to such calls to violence: As NBC's Brandy Zadrozny and Ben Collins pointed out, similar violent rhetoric has flourished in message boards like 8kun and TheDonald, as well as in encrypted communication apps like Telegram.
Parler had a large user base, around 10 million people as of November 2020, and it continued to grow this week – it has been installed nearly 270,000 times in US app stores since Wednesday, according to a story by TechCrunch.
However, Amazon's decision to start Parler from its hosting service, as well as Apple and Google shutdowns, could leave its mark. With no access to the Apple App Store, Amy Peikoff, CEO of Parler, told Fox News' Tucker Carlson on Saturday: "We're toasting."
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