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Apple, Amazon suspend Parler social network from App Store and web hosting service

Apple, Amazon suspend Parler social network from App Store and web hosting service

Postby smix » Sun Jan 10, 2021 2:13 pm

Apple, Amazon suspend Parler social network from App Store and web hosting service
Reuters

URL: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-appl ... SKBN29F00O
Category: Politics
Published: January 10, 2021

Description: (Reuters) - Apple Inc and Amazon.com Inc have suspended Parler from their respective App Store and web hosting service, saying the social networking service popular with many right-leaning social media users has not taken adequate measures to prevent the spread of posts inciting violence. The action by Apple and Amazon follows a similar move by Alphabet Inc’s Google on Friday. Parler is favored by many supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump, who was permanently suspended from Twitter on Friday, and it is seen as a haven for people expelled from Twitter. “We have suspended Parler from the App Store until they resolve these issues,” Apple said in a statement Saturday. Apple had given Parler 24 hours to submit a detailed moderation plan, pointing to participants’ using the service to coordinate Wednesday’s siege of the U.S. Capitol. Amazon’s move effectively takes the site offline unless it can find a new company to host its services. Amazon suspended Parler from its Amazon Web Services (AWS) unit, for violating AWS’s terms of services by failing to effectively deal with a steady increase in violent content, according to an email by an AWS Trust and Safety team to Parler, seen by Reuters. An Amazon spokesperson confirmed the letter was authentic. Due to the “very real risk to public safety” that Parler poses, AWS plans to suspend Parler’s account effective Sunday, at 11:59 p.m. PST, the email seen by Reuters showed. Parler Chief Executive John Matze lashed out at Amazon, Google and Apple, saying it was a coordinated effort knowing Parler’s options would be limited and it would inflict the most damage right as Trump was banned from other social media platforms. “There is the possibility Parler will be unavailable on internet for up to a week as we rebuild from scratch,” he said in a post on Parler. “This was a coordinated attack by the tech giants to kill competition in the market place... You can expect the war on competition and free speech to continue, but don’t count us out.” In addition to Parler, right-leaning social media users in the United States have flocked to messaging app Telegram and hands-off social site Gab, citing the more aggressive policing of political comments on mainstream platforms such as Twitter Inc and Facebook Inc.
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Rep. Nunes calls for racketeering investigation into Amazon, Apple, Google following Parler ban

Postby smix » Mon Jan 11, 2021 12:07 am

Rep. Nunes calls for racketeering investigation into Amazon, Apple, Google following Parler ban
Fox News

URL: https://www.foxnews.com/politics/nunes- ... parler-ban
Category: Politics
Published: January 10, 2021

Description: California Republican calls for CEOs to be criminally prosecuted
Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., called for a racketeering investigation on Sunday following Amazon, Apple and Google’s decisions to suspend the alternative social media platform Parler after Wednesday's U.S. Capitol riot. During an interview on "Sunday Morning Futures," Nunes said Amazon, Apple and Google's suspension of Parler is "clearly a violation'" of antitrust, civil rights and the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, which is a federal law that provides for extended criminal penalties and a civil cause of action for acts performed as part of an ongoing criminal organization. "I don't know where the hell the Department of Justice is at right now or the FBI," the ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence told host Maria Bartiromo. Nunes argued that "there should be a racketeering investigation on all the people that coordinated this attack on not only a company, but on all of those like us. "I have 3 million followers on Parler," he added. "Tonight I will no longer be able to communicate with those people and they’re Americans." The DOJ and the FBI did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment. Nunes made the comments on Sunday hours before Amazon was reportedly planning to suspend Parler from its Amazon Web Services (AWS) unit in a move that takes the site offline, unless it finds another hosting service. Amazon says the move was made for violating AWS's terms of services by failing to effectively deal with a steady increase in violent content, according to an email by an AWS Trust and Safety team to Parler, reported by Reuters. AWS was planning to suspend Parler's account effective Sunday, at 11:59 p.m. PST, according to the email. An Amazon spokesperson confirmed the letter was authentic. Amazon Web Services' acceptable-use policy bars customers from using its services for "illegal, harmful or offensive" content. An Amazon representative declined to comment. Parler is facing criticism over Wednesday’s riot, which saw supporters of President Trump storm into the U.S. Capitol, attack police, vandalize the building and steal items from inside. Screenshots taken from Parler and shared on other social media platforms appear to show Parler users openly discussing plans for violence at the rally that preceded the attack on the Capitol, including bringing weapons and imagining how they would wield them against their political opponents. Google and Apple have already suspended the Parler app from their respective app marketplaces, with a requirement that the platform improve its moderation. "We’re aware of continued posting in the Parler app that seeks to incite ongoing violence in the U.S.," a Google spokesperson told Fox News. "Parler has not taken adequate measures to address the proliferation of these threats to people’s safety," Apple told Fox News. "The effect of this is that there is no longer a free and open social media company or site for any American to get on any longer," Nunes said on Sunday. He went on to say that Apple, Amazon and Google "just destroyed" Parler. "Republicans have no way to communicate," Nunes said, adding that "it doesn’t even matter if you’re Republican or conservative." He stressed that there is no social media platform left for those who "don’t want to be regulated by left-wingers that are at Twitter and Facebook and Instagram, where you get shadow banned, nobody gets to see you, they get to decide what’s violent and not violent." "It’s preposterous," Nunes stressed. Amazon, Apple and Google's suspension of Parler comes after Twitter’s Friday decision to ban President Trump’s personal account after the mob of his loyalists stormed the U.S. Capitol, resulting in several deaths. The tech company accused Trump of inciting the violence. In a statement on Thursday, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced that the block placed on Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts will be extended "indefinitely," saying "we believe the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great." Facebook owns the Instagram platform. Bartiromo said on Sunday that "all of these moves certainly feel like Communist China, where there is this crackdown on free speech." She then asked Nunes what he plans to do about it as an elected official. In response, Nunes noted that the "hypocrisy" of Big Tech suspending Trump and Parler "knows no bounds." He pointed to "Hang Mike Pence" trending on Twitter on Friday night, with about 14,000 tweets after the social media platform banned Trump "due to the risk of further incitement of violence," according to reports. "I think that’s violence," Nunes said on Sunday, referring to Pence trending on Twitter. "Is Apple deleting the Twitter app from the app store? Hell no. "These CEOs that are doing this should be prosecuted criminally," Nunes added. "I've been talking to many of my colleagues, Republicans on the House side and a couple senators," he continued. "We’re going to look for legal options, do we have any legal options? Do we have our First Amendment rights? Are they being violated?" He went on to say that he believes "federal judges have got to step in." "Legislatively, you have to understand, this is not about Big Tech and that they’re just in Silicon Valley and they’re just trying to make money, no they’re working for the Democratic socialist party," Nunes said. "They’re being cheered on by this. They are state-run media and really it’s the communication system. "That’s how people are receiving their information is through this funnel of very few companies that are being controlled by the Democrat socialist party," Nunes added. Twitter appeared to notice the "Hang Mike Pence" trend at some point: on the Twitter Trending USA site, which tracks the past 12 hours of the top 10 trending topics, the item does not appear. "We blocked the phrase and other variations of it from trending," a Twitter spokesperson told Fox News on Saturday. "We want trends to promote healthy discussions on Twitter." Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook and Twitter did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment regarding Nunes’ claim that the companies "are being controlled by the Democrat socialist party." Immediately before Nunes appeared on "Sunday Morning Futures," Parler CEO John Matze said on the program that what is happening is "extremely scary" and that it seems like the Big Tech moves are an effort to "stifle free speech and competition in the marketplace." Parler will likely go offline for "a while" Sunday evening given AWS’ decision to suspend the social media platform. Matze told "Sunday Morning Futures" that the site will try to "get back online as quickly as possible," after writing on the platform that the site may be down for up to a week.
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Twitter, Facebook and Others Silenced Trump. Now They Learn What’s Next.

Postby smix » Mon Jan 11, 2021 6:46 pm

Twitter, Facebook and Others Silenced Trump. Now They Learn What’s Next.
Wall Street Journal

URL: https://www.wsj.com/articles/twitter-fa ... 1610320064
Category: Politics
Published: January 11, 2021

Description: The social-media platforms’ recent actions show the companies’ influence over online discourse
Silicon Valley’s moves to eject President Trump from social media represent a display of power the companies have avoided making for nearly four years. Now Twitter Inc., Facebook Inc. and others must reckon with what comes next. In a span of a couple of days, Twitter and Facebook—Mr. Trump’s main social-media megaphones—took action to silence the president’s personal accounts or online communities devoted to him, citing rules prohibiting content that incites violence. They were joined by companies such as Snap Inc. and Reddit Inc. Apple Inc., Amazon.com Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google also took steps to boot Parler, a social-media app and website that has grown in popularity among conservatives—and which some rioters had used to promote Wednesday’s attack at the U.S. Capitol, according to screenshots viewed by The Wall Street Journal. The actions against Mr. Trump and Parler illustrate more starkly than ever the companies’ influence over conversation online—and the political nature of their decisions. While lauded by many, ejecting the president and some of his supporters also infuriated others who said it amounts to censorship, and the moves risked driving off some users in a way that, especially for Twitter, could reshape their businesses. It also illustrates the political nature of how they determine what content to remove, what content to allow and what to amplify. “Right or wrong, they made a political decision,” Jonathon Hauenschild, director of the communications and technology task force for the nonprofit American Legislative Exchange Council, said about the companies’ moves. Attention on the tech giants “was there to begin with. Now the spotlight is fully on,” he said. The tech companies acted in response to Wednesday’s attack by Trump supporters in Washington, in which five people died. That mob was mobilized largely on social media, and Mr. Trump’s posts before and during the episode were criticized by Democrats and Republicans for inflaming and supporting the crowd. Many people outraged by the event—including employees working for those companies—demanded that Twitter, Facebook and others take more aggressive action than they had in previous controversies involving Mr. Trump. The companies said removing Mr. Trump and Parler from their platforms was necessary to prevent online posts that could lead to further violence. “It’s a seismic change,” said Chris Nolan, chief executive of San Francisco-based ad-buying firm Spot-On, of companies’ actions to ban the president. “It’s a step on the part of the platforms to recognize that what happens on their platforms has consequences in real life.” The decisions added fuel to an already raging debate over whether the platforms do too much to police content on their platforms or not enough. Many conservatives, including Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) and others, said the impact of the platforms’ decisions suggests the tech industry’s sway over public conversation is too great. “We are now living in a country where four or five companies, unelected, unaccountable, have the monopoly power to decide, we’re gonna wipe people out, we’re going to erase them, from any digital platform, whether it’s selling things and the like,” he told Fox News on Sunday. Some allies of Mr. Trump have said they would shift their activity on Twitter to other platforms—including Parler and Gab—deemed more tolerant of speech. Twitter on Friday also suspended some other accounts related to Mr. Trump and his backers, including those of his campaign and one of its senior officials, as well as several associated with the far-right conspiracy group QAnon that Twitter said violated its policy on coordinated harmful activity. For Twitter, in particular, it is unclear how the decision will affect the company’s business. The president’s personal Twitter account had more than 88 million followers, which equated to nearly half Twitter’s total number of average daily users. And while Mr. Trump wasn’t Twitter’s most widely followed member, his tweets stirred conversation and engagement for Twitter users across the political spectrum. Having the president embrace Twitter as his platform of choice reinforced the company’s pitch to the broader public that it serves as the go-to place to know what is happening. At the same time, Mr. Trump’s frequently contentious tweets also created headaches for the company, as it tried to enforce its rules and ensure the platform is hospitable for big-name advertisers. “From a business standpoint, I don’t see this as a problem for the social-media companies,” said Eric Ross, chief strategist at Cascend Securities, who covers publicly traded technology companies. “It seems like they were already moving in the direction of limiting people’s political commentary and discourse, and advertisers seemed to be following them.” A spokesman for Twitter declined to comment. Facebook and other companies might feel less impact to their businesses from moderating the accounts of Mr. Trump and his followers. Yet their actions showed how companies have evolved during the Trump era. Before Mr. Trump took office, most major platform operators preferred to moderate as little content as possible, employing fairly small teams of content moderators. Some Twitter executives called their company “the free-speech wing of the free-speech party.” Now, companies such as Facebook employ thousands of moderators and use artificial intelligence and other technology to keep tabs on what their users post. At Twitter, acrimony on the platform began to pose a liability to business, a former executive said. “It got to a point where there became an expectation that Twitter needed to police it more, or people wouldn’t use the platform for fear of being subjected to abuse,” the former executive said. Companies’ actions will likely come under even more scrutiny as regulators pursue antitrust cases against several tech giants, and as Congress and the incoming Biden administration look to revamp 25-year-old legislation known as Section 230 that has long provided a liability shield for the platforms’ decisions over content regulation. In recent months, Parler had become a refuge for some conservatives upset about what they saw as overreach and bias by the mainstream platforms. On Friday, Parler had been downloaded 182,000 times across both Apple and Google’s app stores, a 14-fold increase in its number of downloads from the previous Friday, according to app-analytics firm Sensor Tower Inc. Yet Parler has also faced criticism for its hands-off approach to moderation, including speech from neo-Nazis and other groups that call for violence. Parler’s future is unclear. Amazon halted its cloud-computing services, which left the service inoperative as of Sunday. Google and Apple removed it from their app stores, meaning even if it can restart, its app would be unavailable to many smartphone users. Apple and Google require apps in their stores to moderate content. Google pointed to examples of content it found on Parler that threatened elected officials and called for plans to organize a militia march. One user posted: “How we take back our country? It’s simple…we hunt them down!” Google also flagged images of fliers shared on Parler that called on armed militias to march on Washington, D.C., the day of the inauguration. Parler executives told the Journal the company has doubled its team of volunteer moderators and instructed them to search “hot” hashtags to gauge whether users are inciting violence. Parler Chief Executive John Matze said the company has been removing users who violate its terms. Mr. Matze said keeping his business running will be difficult because companies it has relied on to operate have suddenly stopped working with it. “Our vendors dropped us all at once,” he told the Journal. With Amazon planning to cut off Parler’s data storage and processing contract at 11:59 p.m. Pacific time Sunday, he expects Parler to become temporarily unavailable. “In the best-case scenario, it’ll be 12 hours. In the worst, worse-case scenario, weeks,” he said. Though Parler and other smaller platforms might grow, longtime observers of social media say the significant scale of Twitter and Facebook make those platforms unlikely to lose their influence. Smaller venues full of like-minded users don’t give users the chance to reach new audiences, leaving participants competing with each other for attention, said Joan Donovan, director of research at Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy. “Once someone’s been removed from the mainstream networks,” she said, “they tend to become very marginal.”
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