Amazon asked a federal judge Tuesday to deny a request by Parler, a Henderson-based social media platform, to reinstate its account after it was ousted from web-hosting services.
“This case is not about suppressing speech or stifling viewpoints. It is not about a conspiracy to restrain trade,” Amazon’s attorneys wrote. “Instead, this case is about Parler’s demonstrated unwillingness and inability to remove from the servers of Amazon Web Services (“AWS”) content that threatens the public safety, such as by inciting and planning the rape, torture, and assassination of named public officials and private citizens.”
In a federal complaint filed in Seattle on Monday, Parler, which is considered an alternative to Twitter with conservative and sometimes far-right viewpoints, argued that Amazon Web Services shut down its account with little more than a day’s notice — which breached an existing contract — and that the decision was politically motivated.
According to the lawsuit, Amazon’s action served as “the equivalent of pulling the plug on a hospital patient on life support. It will kill Parler’s business — at the very time it is set to skyrocket.”
But Amazon’s attorneys, Ambika Doran and Alonzo Wickers, told U.S. District Judge Barbara Rothstein that it was Parler who breached the parties’ agreement by hosting content advocating violence and failing to take the content down in a timely manner.
“Compelling AWS to host content that plans, encourages, and incites violence would be unprecedented,” the lawyers wrote.
Parler was terminated from the web after President Donald Trump’s account, with nearly 90 million followers, was banned from Twitter, which cited “the risk of further incitement of violence.”
The Parler app saw its downloads jump by nearly a million between Election Day on Nov. 3 and Nov. 8, according to the company’s complaint, and that trend continued after Trump’s account was banned from Twitter.
Parler filed its request for a temporary restraining order, which would have stopped Amazon from wiping Parler off its hosting services, one day too late, according to court records. Parler also did not serve Amazon with its complaint initially, a violation of court rules.
In the filing Monday, Parler’s lawyer, David Groesbeck, asked the judge for an immediate decision, saying that a delay “by even one day could also sound Parler’s death knell as President Trump and others move on to other platforms.”
Amazon maintained that Parler failed to moderate violent posts. Amazon decided over the weekend to shut down Parler as part of a tech purge of social media believed to have fueled last Wednesday’s Capitol Hill riot, which left five dead, including Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick.
The siege at the U.S. Capitol had been influenced by the conspiracy theory that the November presidential election that resulted in a victory for Joe Biden had been fraudulent and the results needed to be overturned.
After Parler was notified by Amazon over the weekend that its account would be terminated, CEO John Matze told Parler users that the site would be operational again in 12 hours, according to Amazon’s response.
Parler had prepared for events like this, Matze posted on Parler, “by never relying on amazons proprietary infrastructure.”
In their court filing, Parler argued that though Amazon’s reason for the suspension was that it was not confident that Parler could properly police its platform, the same rules did not apply to competitors.
“Friday night one of the top trending tweets on Twitter was ‘Hang Mike Pence.’ But AWS has no plans nor has it made any threats to suspend Twitter’s account,” Groesbeck wrote.
Amazon denied colluding with Parler’s competitors to threaten its business and said Amazon notified Parler repeatedly of more than 100 pieces of content that violated their agreement since November, and Parler was “unwilling and unable” to provide a plan to address the problem.
“AWS suspended Parler’s account as a last resort to prevent further access to such content, including plans for violence to disrupt the impending Presidential transition,” Amazon’s lawyers wrote.