Big Tech creates rules of the road, and applies them inconsistently.
So, unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last 3 weeks or so (and if you have, I really envy you), you are probably aware of the Capital riots and the aftermath that saw Apple and Google both boot Parler from their App Stores, and then a few days later, Amazon giving Parler 24 hours to find new hosting before they kicked them off of AWS.
Now, whatever your thoughts are on Parler, you should be concerned about this concerted effort by the titans of tech to remove an upstart social media platform simply because of it’s political slant.
Google removed Parler from it’s Play Store with nary a reason. Apple at least tried to feign impartiality by giving Parler time to outline a plan it could implement that would tackle it’s “moderation problem”. Parler’s response to Apple’s query was that it would improve it’s tools to allow for ‘self policing’, meaning it would rely on other users to report bad behavior. Apple didn’t like that answer, and booted Parler from the App Store, with the condition that they could be re-instated if they improved their moderation practices.
Amazon didn’t give Parler any such “consideration”, and instead just gave Parler 24 hours notice before it deactivated their AWS account.
The rub here is that Twitter uses AWS as it’s backend. And Twitter, by distinction of being a larger platform, was used far more than Parler for any violence that was incited at the Capital and many other riots that have taken place over the last year. Hell, you could argue that violent
idea domestic terrorists Antifa have used Twitter for organization and incitement of violence for four years. As if to make the point as clearly as it could be made, the same day that Parler was being booted from AWS for “incitement to violence” and lack of moderation, the phrase #HangPence was being promoted and trending on Twitter.
Yet Twitter remains an AWS customer, and is still available for download in both Google and Apple App Stores.
Tech has long told conservatives that if they don’t like the rules of the liberal platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter et all, that they should go and build their own platforms.
With Parler, they did just that. Parler was a hot mess of UI and app issues, and it’s infrastructure was constantly falling over. But in spite of that, it was growing like gang busters. It was the #1 app in the Apple App Store for many months, right up until Apple booted it. Conservatives had built their own social media platform, and at the first opportunity, Google, Apple and Amazon got their guns out and shot it right in the head.
Amazon’s move is the most egregious, because without the breadth and scale of AWS, it’s hard for any up and coming social media platform to compete with the likes of Twitter. Twitter has used AWS to handle their scalability and infrastructure problems as it moved from a desktop micro blogging platform to a tool on millions of peoples phones. That Amazon took out a competitor to Twitter for purporting to incite violence, when Twitter has been used to incite violence since it’s very inception and continues to be used still, reeks of collusion. At the very least it is a demonstrable case of a company unequally applying a set of rules to two different companies.
Parler has launched a lawsuit against Amazon, and I feel they have a good shot at winning it. In the interim, Parler is working to restore it’s service, though with the bad press garnered from the shunning by Amazon, Apple and Google, they will find it hard to find a new infrastructure provider who can give them what Amazon did. Building out your own infrastructure at this scale is difficult and costly, and extremely risky when you have the titans of tech gunning for you and able to cut you off at the knees at every chance they get.
The time for Big Tech to be regulated has passed. It’s not just the repeal of Section 230 that is needed. New restrictions on these companies that hold immense power need to be enacted. Sadly, with the Biden administration in power, these companies will be publicly chided, and privately courted by those with the power. The best free speech advocates (and those persecuted by Big Tech) can hope for is wins in the courts that will make it harder for these companies to hide behind the mantra that they are “platforms and not publishers”.
Until then, expect freedom of speech online to continue to be attacked and driven to extinction.