Parler forced offline as AWS refuses to host ‘violent content’

What’s happening? Amazon has become the latest technology company to act against social network Parler by ending its hosting services, soon after Google and Apple stores suspended the app. Amazon said increasingly violent content on Parler broke its terms, adding that the social network had not been in a hurry to remove offending content by itself. It also repeated comments by Parler CEO John Matze that neither he nor Parler felt responsible. The network, which has also been cut off by phone number verifier Twilio, customer service company Zendesk and identity management firm Okta, has sued Amazon over its decision.

Why does this matter? The goalposts seem to have moved for corporates following the riots at the US Capitol. It is now not only bad press to be associated with the outgoing president and his supporters, but continuing to supply services could also be seen as collaborating or facilitating actions that are deemed to be illegal in the future.

Furthermore, companies seem to be taking steps that materially hurt these organisations. Without Amazon, Parler has had its wings clipped. In a similar vein, payments processing company Stripe has stopped processing donations paid to the Trump campaign website, voicing concern about donations stemming from organisations affiliated with last week’s violence. The campaign can now no longer process funding it receives. (There is, of course, a debate about whether action should have been taken sooner by these companies.)

Having a radioactive reputation may well be appealing to certain “fan bases” – but this is now making it impossible for certain entities to exist as businesses. Many would say that’s only right.

The question, of course, is whether any of this action makes any difference. Trump has found a way to communicate following his ban from major social media platforms. His embrace of fringe news organisations will also see him no doubt find a microphone once he has left office. Meanwhile, his staunchest supporters are finding their way to darker corners of the internet where rhetoric can continue to be exchanged unchallenged.

Lateral thought from Curation – To take a more positive stance, Parler being taken offline may help efforts to overcome Covid-19. The platform has been known to allow the circulation of anti-vaccination conspiracy theories, which could have proved detrimental to mass inoculation efforts. Of course, mainstream social networks have also grappled with this problem of misinformation.

Sara Trett

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