Federal Judge Rules Amazon Does Not Have To Reinstate Parler

Published on January 21, 2021

On Thursday a federal judge ruled that Amazon will not be forced to reinstate Parler, the controversial social media site, after Amazon Web Services took the platform offline this month. Tech companies in the United States have opted to distance themselves from Parler in recent weeks after the January 6th insurrection at the United States Capitol was organized, in part, on the app.

In documents obtained by NPR’s Bobby Allyn, it was revealed that the federal judge determined that Amazon does not have to host Parler if it does not want to. “The Court rejects any suggestion that the public interest favors requiring AWS to host the incendiary speech that the record shows some of Parler’s users have engaged in. At this stage, on the showing made thus far, neither the public interest nor the balance of equities favors granting an injunction in this case,” said U.S. Judge Barbara Rothstein in the legal documents.

Parler sued Amazon after it was taken offline earlier this month, arguing that the company was being unfairly targeted by Big Tech and that the move was an infringement of the first amendment rights of Parler and its users.

Private technology companies are not beholden to the First Amendment, which grants freedom of speech in the United States. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 grants freedom of speech to users on internet platforms like social media and email. The law prevents internet technology companies from being sued for the content on their platforms, so long as it’s not illegal or depicts illegal activity, and grants additional protections to those companies that allow them to set their own terms of use. Terms of use enable the companies to moderate and remove content that might fall outside of their Section 230 protections, such as the violent threats that were present on Parler in the days before the insurrection.

In the past, internet companies that have played host to illegal activity have met a similar fate. The controversial platform 8chan was shut down in 2019 after videos of the New Zealand mosque shooting circulated the platform for days, and because the shooter published a manifesto on the website in the days prior to the attack.

As its web hosting service, Amazon could have been held legally liable for the content on Parler in the same ways that Apple, Samsung and Google were for hosting the app in their respective app stores. Each of these companies have removed Parler from their app stores, and Amazon terminated its services to the controversial social media platform after it refused to deliver and implement a robust content moderation plan.

Apple CEO Tim Cook said recently that Parler could be reinstated as an app in the App Store if it were to present a moderation plan, but the company has yet to make such a move.

Julia Sachs is a former Managing Editor at Grit Daily. She covers technology, social media and disinformation. She is based in Utah and before the pandemic she liked to travel.

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