A U.S. federal judge on Thursday refused Parler’s motion for a preliminary injunction to force Amazon to immediately restore web services for the far-right social network.
Parler filed a lawsuit against Amazon after it was kicked from the company’s web hosting service, Amazon Web Services, on Jan. 10 for reportedly refusing to remove its users’ hate speech and calls for violence. It’s also suing Google and Apple, which both booted Parler’s app from their respective app stores over similar issues. Parler’s moderation failings came to a head in the wake of this month’s deadly attack on the Capitol building, as several rioters purportedly used the network among other pro-Trump corners of the web to coordinate their harebrained attempt to overthrow the presidential election results. It was revealed earlier on Thursday that the FBI is now facing federal pressure to launch a probe into Parler over its potential ties to the Capitol riots.
Parler, which bills itself as “the world’s premier free speech platform,” ironically called for the courts to compel Amazon to become its business partner once more and reinstate its web services. On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Barbara Rothstein in Seattle said Parler had “fallen far short” in demonstrating that there was any public need to justify granting such an injunction.
“The Court rejects any suggestion that the public interest favours requiring AWS to host the incendiary speech that the record shows some of Parler’s users have engaged in,” Rothstein wrote. “At this stage, on the showing made thus far, neither the public interest nor the balance of equities favours granting an injunction in this case.”
However, Rothstein stopped short of dismissing the case outright, clarifying that she believes Parler has “substantive underlying claims at this time” against AWS. But until that battle plays out in court, Parler will have to continue relying on its purported new web host, Epik, which has been a safe haven for other de-platformed cesspools of online extremism like Gab, the Daily Stormer, and formerly 8chan.
Parler has tried its darndest to spin its widespread deplatforming in recent weeks as anything other than its own fault for housing violent and hateful content. (Something that this lawsuit has only produced even more photographic evidence of, according to Amazon’s court filings.)
Parler has repeatedly spouted conspiracy theories about Big Tech companies colluding to take out their own competition by banning its network. According to Parler, it got too big too fast when Trump supporters started ditching mainstream social media platforms, and particularly fellow microblogging site Twitter, that censored and eventually banned the president. You won’t be surprised to learn that these claims are just about as bullshit as they sound: Rothstein found that Parler produced “only faint and factually inaccurate speculation” about Amazon and Twitter conspiring to shut Parler down.
Given the judge’s apparent rejection of these antitrust allegations, it’s a mystery what she’s referring to regarding those supposed “substantive underlying claims” that Parler has against AWS. A major argument in Parler’s suit is that AWS supposedly violated the Sherman Antitrust Act by taking its site down and was “committing intentional interference” to cut off the network’s future growth. Parler’s other leading argument, that Amazon is in breach of contract for failing to give a 30-day notice before yanking its contract, seems even less likely to hold water because AWS’s customer agreement plainly states that the company can revoke service at any time if a platform or its users breach these terms.
Amazon said it welcomes the judge’s decision and reiterated that “this was not a case about free speech” in a statement to the Associated Press. Parler said it was disappointed by Thursday’s ruling but remains confident that it will “ultimately prevail in the main case,” which it claims “will have broad implications for our pluralistic society,” per a statement posted to the platform. Due to “technical difficulties,” the site is up but only functioning as a sort of bulletin board for company statements and messages of support from conservatives, but CEO John Matze has pledged to get Parler back up and running by the end of January.