Amazon Says It's Been Flagging Violent Posts to Parler Since November

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  • In a court filing late Tuesday, Amazon defended its decision to drop Parler, a social media app popular with Trump supporters, from its web hosting service.
  • Amazon said it "notified Parler repeatedly" over the past several months that it was hosting violent content in violation of its terms of service, including posts that made death threats against lawmakers and tech executives.
  • Parler's failure to effectively moderate content on its site "left AWS little choice but to suspend Parler's account," Amazon said in the filing.
  • In a filing Wednesday afternoon, Parler disputed Amazon's claim that it objected to the social media site's moderation policies.

Amazon defended its decision to drop Parler from its web hosting service in response to a lawsuit filed by the social media app earlier this week.

In court filings late Tuesday, Amazon said it flagged dozens of pieces of violent content to the social media app starting in November. The company argued that Parler violated its contract with Amazon's cloud computing unit, Amazon Web Services, when it failed to remove the content and that AWS suspended Parler's account "as a last resort."

"This case is not about suppressing speech or stifling viewpoints," Amazon wrote in its response to Parler. "It is not about conspiracy to restrain trade. Instead, this case is about Parler's demonstrated unwillingness and inability to remove from the servers of AWS content that threatens public safety, such as by inciting and planning the rape, torture, and assassination of named public officials and private citizens."

Amazon pulled the plug on Parler, a social media app popular with supporters of President Donald Trump, last week in the wake of the deadly U.S. Capitol riot. Parler filed a lawsuit against Amazon on Monday, accusing Amazon of breaching its contract and breaking antitrust laws. Parler also asked the court for a temporary restraining order to force AWS to reinstate its account.

In its response to Parler's lawsuit, Amazon argued that restoring web service to Parler would likely harm the public, outweighing "any speculative damage Parler claims it may suffer" from its site being offline. 

It also rebuffed Parler's claim that AWS broke antitrust laws by denying it service. It cited Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a law favored by Silicon Valley and, increasingly, under attack by lawmakers, which shields tech companies from being held liable for what users post on their platforms.

Amazon said it began reporting content in violation of its terms of service to Parler on Nov. 17 of last year. Over the next seven weeks, Amazon said it reported more than 100 additional pieces of content advocating violence. 

Amazon included some examples of that content in exhibits filed alongside its lawsuit, which include death threats against members of Congress, tech company executives like Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, as well as U.S. Capitol Police, among other groups. In some Parler posts, users made threats to "burn down Amazon delivery trucks" and Apple stores, as well as "seize Amazon's servers."

"We should peacefully assemble outside all these tech tyrants homes and businesses, then peacefully protest and peacefully loot and burn them," one Parler post read, according to the court filing.

Amazon said content encouraging violence grew after the riot at the U.S. Capitol by some Trump supporters on Wednesday, which left five dead. Following the incident, politicians and the public have called on social media companies like Facebook, Twitter and Google's YouTube to more closely moderate their platforms, in order to prevent incitements to violence. 

Amazon held calls with Parler executives following the riot where it raised concerns about Parler's ineffective moderation strategies, which included relying on volunteers to report content. Parler CEO John Matze indicated on one of those calls that the company had a backlog of 26,000 reports of content that violated its policies and were still up on the site, the filing states.

"Parler's own failures left AWS little choice but to suspend Parler's account," Amazon said in the filing.

In a court filing Wednesday afternoon, Parler disputed Amazon's claim that it objected to the social media site's moderation policies, adding that in mid-December, AWS "pledged that it was 'definitely in this journey with' Parler regarding abuse reports."

Additionally, Parler alleges that Amazon was aware of the company's plans to build more robust moderation software, including an "AI system" that would pre-screen inappropriate content.

Parler claims in the filing that the company maintained a positive business relationship with AWS up until it was terminated from the web hosting service. Parler alleged that last November AWS tried to sell Parler additional services, which would "permanently attach Parler to Amazon's hip."

Parler didn't respond to a request for comment. Amazon previously said there was "no merit" to the claims laid out in Parler's lawsuit.

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