What is Parler social network that Apple, Amazon and Google have suspended?

Apple, Amazon and Google have suspended the social network called parler saying that the platform has not taken enough measures to make sure that content inciting violence remains in check.

What is Parler?
It is a social media platform that is considered to be an alternative to Twitter and is popular with conservatives. The platform describes itself as being the world’s “premier free speech platform”. “Speak freely and express yourself openly, without fear of being “deplatformed” for your views,” the website of the platform says.

Why was it suspended?
The move has come following the events of January 6 when an armed mob of Trump supporters stormed Capitol Hill and clashed with the police as Congress convened to validate Joe Biden’s presidential win.

The platform is favoured by right-leaning users and as per media reports was actively used by supporters of US President Donald Trump, including several of those who participated in the Capitol Hill siege.

In a letter addressed to the developers of the Parler app by Apple, which was published by The New York Times, the company said that the measures taken by Parler were inadequate “to address the proliferation of dangerous and objectionable content on your app”.

“Parler has not upheld its commitment to moderate and remove harmful or dangerous content encouraging violence and illegal activity, and is not in compliance with the App Store Review Guidelines,” it said in the letter.

Amazon too has given similar reasons for banning the platform and maintains that the “violent content” on the website violates their terms of service.

The suspension means that users can no longer download the app from the Apple app store or the Google play store. Amazon, on the other hand, has suspended the platform from its web-hosting service called Amazon Web Services

A web hosting service is a mechanism through which companies provide space to websites on a physical server where they can store data and other information necessary for their websites to function. Since Parler was not able to find an alternative hosting service, it effectively went offline at 11:59 am PST on Sunday and will not be back up until it is able to find a new hosting service provider.

What does the suspension mean?

Following the siege, Trump’s Twitter and Facebook accounts were suspended by the two tech giants, a move which some of his critics have lauded. On Friday, Twitter wrote in a blog post “After close review of recent Tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account and the context around them — specifically how they are being received and interpreted on and off Twitter — we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence.

“In the context of horrific events this week, we made it clear on Wednesday that additional violations of the Twitter Rules would potentially result in this very course of action. Our public interest framework exists to enable the public to hear from elected officials and world leaders directly. It is built on a principle that the people have a right to hold power to account in the open,” it added.

Twitter said that two tweets made by Trump on January 8 violated their “Glorification of Violence” policy, as a result of which his account was permanently suspended from the platform.

Even so, these moves taken by the tech giants in the last one week have reignited the debate on the power that tech companies have in censoring content. A report in The Financial Times said that while Trump’s critics have applauded his “deplatforming”, “which many say were long overdue. But others worry that the moves demonstrate how much political power has been built up by a handful of private companies.”

This, however, is not the first time that platforms have taken such an action. In October last year, YouTube announced that it would be taking additional measures to block content related to QAnon, a pro-Donald Trump conspiracy theory or movement. In July 2020, Twitter and TikTok blocked some hashtags and removed some accounts related to it and in August Facebook announced a ban on QAnon groups. Social networking website Reddit also banned one of its largest pro-Trump subreddits (a community forum), citing a violation in its updated policy on hate speech in July last year.

In 2019, the FBI said that fringe political conspiracy theories including QAnon are a domestic threat and likely to “motivate some domestic extremists, wholly or in part, to engage in criminal or violent activity.”