Amazon notified Parler that it would be cutting off the social network favored by conservatives and extremists from its cloud hosting service Amazon Web Services, according to an email obtained by BuzzFeed News. The suspension, which will go into effect on Sunday just before midnight, means that Parler will be unable to operate and will go offline unless it can find another hosting service.
People on Parler used the social network to stoke fear, spread hate, and allegedly coordinate the insurrection at the Capitol building on Wednesday. The app has recently been overrun with death threats, celebrations of violence, and posts encouraging “Patriots” to march on Washington, DC, with weapons on Jan. 19, the day before the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.
In an email obtained by BuzzFeed News, an AWS Trust and Safety team told Parler Chief Policy Officer Amy Peikoff that the calls for violence propagating across the social network violated its terms of service. Amazon said it was unconvinced that the service’s plan to use volunteers to moderate calls for violence and hate speech would be effective.
“Recently, we’ve seen a steady increase in this violent content on your website, all of which violates our terms," the email reads. "It’s clear that Parler does not have an effective process to comply with the AWS terms of service.”
An Amazon spokesperson declined to comment on the suspension.
In a post on Saturday evening following publication of this story, Parler CEO John Matze, who did not return a request for comment from BuzzFeed News, said it is possible the social network "will be unavailable on the internet for up to a week as we rebuild from scratch."
"This was a coordinated attack by the tech giants to kill competition in the market place," he wrote on Parler. "We were too successful too fast."
On Parler, reaction to the impending ban was swift and outraged, with some discussing violence against Amazon. "It would be a pity if someone with explosives training were to pay a visit to some AWS data centers," one person wrote.[INSERT 7]
Amazon's move comes after Apple banned Parler from its App Store on Saturday afternoon, after the platform failed to introduce a moderation plan to protect public safety. On Friday, Apple gave Parler 24 hours to mitigate the "planning of illegal and dangerous activities" occurring on its service or face expulsion, BuzzFeed News first reported. Google has also suspended Parler from its Google Play app store.
On Saturday, ahead of Apple's expected banning from the App Store, people rushed to download Parler's app, making it the most downloaded free app. While people will still be able to use Parler on their iPhones after the App Store ban, the social media company will not be able to distribute updates through Apple's services.
Amazon's move, however, will remove the infrastructure from which Parler operates.
Parler, which was launched in 2018, has become a safe haven for people banned by popular sites including Facebook and Twitter. The Henderson, Nevada–based company has billed itself as a free speech alternative to mainstream social networks and taken a more relaxed approach to content moderation, attracting conspiracy theorists, hate group members, and right-wing activists who have openly incited violence.
Recent threads on Parler have called for the execution of Vice President Mike Pence and encouraged the conspiracy theory that left-wing antifa activists were behind Wednesday’s events.
Republican lawmakers including Sen. Ted Cruz and Congressman Devin Nunes as well as President Donald Trump’s family members and surrogates have all established Parler accounts, and have publicly encouraged their supporters to join them there. So too have many figures in conservative media.
Amazon's email to Parler also contained examples from the platform of calls for the assassinations of lawmakers, members of the media, and activists.[INSERT 3]
“[W]e cannot provide services to a customer that is unable to effectively identify and remove content that encourages or incites violence against others,” the email continues. “Because Parler cannot comply with our terms of service and poses a very real risk to public safety, we plan to suspend Parler’s account effective Sunday, January 10th, at 11:59PM PST.”
On Amazon Web Services, Parler had gone from a negligible spend to paying more than $300,000 a month for hosting, according to multiple sources.
Amazon employees had publicly called for an AWS ban of Parler, and a Change.org petition calling for the same thing had amassed thousands of signatures this week. Multiple employees had also filed internal complaints to AWS management citing hate speech on the social network.
Here is Amazon’s letter to Parler in full.
Thank you for speaking with us earlier today.
As we discussed on the phone yesterday and this morning, we remain troubled by the repeated violations of our terms of service. Over the past several weeks, we’ve reported 98 examples to Parler of posts that clearly encourage and incite violence. Here are a few examples below from the ones we’ve sent previously: [See images above.]
Recently, we’ve seen a steady increase in this violent content on your website, all of which violates our terms. It’s clear that Parler does not have an effective process to comply with the AWS terms of service. It also seems that Parler is still trying to determine its position on content moderation. You remove some violent content when contacted by us or others, but not always with urgency. Your CEO recently stated publicly that he doesn’t “feel responsible for any of this, and neither should the platform.” This morning, you shared that you have a plan to more proactively moderate violent content, but plan to do so manually with volunteers. It’s our view that this nascent plan to use volunteers to promptly identify and remove dangerous content will not work in light of the rapidly growing number of violent posts. This is further demonstrated by the fact that you still have not taken down much of the content that we’ve sent you. Given the unfortunate events that transpired this past week in Washington, D.C., there is serious risk that this type of content will further incite violence.
AWS provides technology and services to customers across the political spectrum, and we continue to respect Parler’s right to determine for itself what content it will allow on its site. However, we cannot provide services to a customer that is unable to effectively identify and remove content that encourages or incites violence against others. Because Parler cannot comply with our terms of service and poses a very real risk to public safety, we plan to suspend Parler’s account effective Sunday, January 10th, at 11:59PM PST. We will ensure that all of your data is preserved for you to migrate to your own servers, and will work with you as best as we can to help your migration.
- AWS Trust & Safety Team