Parler Files Antitrust Suit Against Amazon After Server Suspension

Parler, the social media upstart favored by the far right, sued Amazon for kicking the platform off its servers in the wake of last week’s deadly attack on Capitol Hill by a mob of Trump supporters.

(AP Photo/Frank Augstein, File)

SEATTLE (CN) — Amazon Web Services violated antitrust laws when it suspended Parler, the Twitter-like social media alternative favored by conservatives and free-speech advocates, according to a federal lawsuit filed by the platform Monday.

Parler seeks a temporary restraining order and immediate reinstatement of Amazon’s webhosting, which Amazon terminated Sunday night in the wake of the deadly attack on Capitol Hill last week by a mob of President Donald Trump supporters.

“AWS’s decision to effectively terminate Parler’s account is apparently motivated by political animus. It is also apparently designed to reduce competition in the microblogging services market to the benefit of Twitter,” according to the 18-page complaint.

Amazon suspended Parler after it said Parler failed to remove violent content that violates Amazon’s terms of service. Yet one of the top trends on Twitter Friday was “Hang Mike Pence” with 14,000 tweets, Parler says in its complaint.

“Yet these equivalent, if not greater, violations of AWS’s terms of service by Twitter have apparently been ignored by AWS,” according to the complaint.

Parler became the number one free app downloaded from Apple’s App Store on Sunday, two days after Twitter permanently banned President Trump. Terminating Parler’s webhosting service will “kill Parler’s business — at the very time it is set to skyrocket,” the platform, its name taken from the French verb “to speak” but pronounced like “parlor,” says in its complaint.

“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,” Twitter said in a statement posted to its blog Friday.

Trump called the people who stormed the U.S. Capitol “patriots” on Jan. 6, after a rally he led to protest Congress’s certification of Joe Biden’s electoral votes. 

Facebook suspended the president for at least two weeks, until after Biden is sworn into office Jan. 20.

“We believe the risks of allowing President Trump to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great, so we are extending the block we have placed on his Facebook and Instagram accounts indefinitely and for at least the next two weeks,” Facebook said in a statement posted on its website.

Parler was one of the last social media platforms available to Trump, who had almost 90 million followers on Twitter.

“Speculation began to mount that President Trump would likewise move to Parler,” which would be an “astronomical boon” for the company, according to the complaint.

“Given the context of Parler’s looming threat to Twitter and the fact that the Twitter ban might not long muzzle the president if he switched to Parler, potentially bringing tens of millions of followers with him, AWS moved to shut down Parler,” the complaint says.

Amazon’s cloud computing services are necessary for the Parler apps and website — which are written to work with AWS technology — to function. If it must switch to a different service provider, “Parler will be offline for a financially devastating period,” the platform says in its complaint.

Less than a month ago, Amazon and Parler’s competitor Twitter entered a multiyear webhosting deal. Parler says Amazon’s suspension reduces competition and violates antitrust laws.

The company wants U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Rothstein to issue a temporary restraining order and immediate reinstatement of its account.

“Without AWS, Parler is finished as it has no way to get online. And a delay of granting this TRO by even one day could also sound Parler’s death knell as President Trump and others move on to other platforms,” the company says in its complaint.

Parler’s claims also include breach of contract and interference with business expectancy.

Parler CEO John Matze accused Amazon of trying to “completely remove free speech off the internet” in a statement posted on his Parler account.

David Groesbeck in Olympia represents the platform.

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