Amazon has called a lawsuit by Parler “meritless” and the facts “unequivocal” in a case that pits the conservative social media platform against the giant web services provider that declined to support it due to incitement to violence.
In a court filing that echoes and expands a statement by Amazon on Monday, attorneys for the Jeff Bezos-led company said Parler’s suit “is not about suppressing speech or stifling viewpoints. It is not about a conspiracy to restrain trade. 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.”
Apple and Google had already removed Parler from their app stores and the AWS move basically forced it to shut down. Parler’s suit called Amazon’s decision politically motivated and “apparently designed to reduce competition in the microblogging services market to the benefit of Twitter.”
In the filing — in District Court for the Western District of Washington in Seattle — Amazon insists there is “no legal basis … to compel AWS to host content of this nature. AWS notified Parler repeatedly that its content violated the parties’ agreement, requested removal, and reviewed Parler’s plan to address the problem, only to determine that Parler was both unwilling and unable to do so. 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.”
Supporters of reluctantly outgoing President Donald Trump laid violent siege to the Capitol building last Wednesday. Five people died. By the end of the week, Twitter had permanently banned Trump’s account and Facebook blocked him indefinitely. Trump supporters turned even more heavily to Parler, which AWS stopped supporting on Monday. Parler sued, requesting a temporary restraining order.
In its court response, Amazon said that when Parler contracted with AWS in 2018 it agree among other things “not to use AWS to host certain content, including content that ‘violates the rights of others, or that may be harmful to others.’” It said Parler began to breach the agreement in mid-November as false, unsubstantiated claims that Joe Biden had stolen the election, spread by President Trump and his allies incite violent response across social media, including on Parler. Posts that “clearly encourage and incite violence” increased steadily, making “clear that Parler does not have an effective process to comply with the AWS terms of service,” Amazon said.
Parler breached its contract with Amazon first, in other words, not the other way around.
“AWS reported to Parler, over many weeks, dozens of examples of content that encouraged violence, including calls to hang public officials, kill Black and Jewish people, and shoot police officers in the head … Parler systematically failed to “suspend access” to this content, much less to do so immediately, and demonstrated that it has no effective process in place to ensure future compliance. Parler itself has admitted it has a backlog of 26,000 reports of content that violates its (minimal) community standards that it had not yet reviewed. Parler’s own failures left AWS little choice but to suspend Parler’s account.”
The filing (in full below) lists dozens of violent posts it brought to Parler’s attention, which it calls “merely representative of volumes of content that poses a security risk and harms others.”
“People have acted on these calls: Parler was used to incite, organize, and coordinate the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.”
The nation is currently just trying to make it through to the inauguration of Joe Biden on Jan. 20. However, decisions made during this period of unrest by social media giants have ignited an already furious debate on the extent to which platforms can or should curate and moderate content on their platforms.
Amazon’s lengthy rebuttal included a reference to Section 230, a statute in the Communications Decency Act that President Trump has sought to eliminate. Section 230 says the provider of an interactive computer service is immune for acting in good faith to restrict access to material that is excessively violent, harassing or otherwise objectionable. “That is precisely what AWS did here: removed access to content it considered excessively violent and harassing,” it said.