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Pro-Trump social media site Parler, booted by Amazon, takes step toward relaunching

Katherine Khashimova Long, The Seattle Times on

Published in Business News

Hours after Amazon effectively scrubbed it from the internet, conservative social media network Parler is taking stumbling steps toward a relaunch.

Parler filed suit Monday against Amazon in federal court in Seattle, contending the cloud-computing services provider violated antitrust law and breached the terms of its contract when it pulled the plug on Parler in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. That day, mobs loyal to President Donald Trump breached congressional chambers to demand lawmakers overturn the presidential election. Parler asked the judge for a temporary restraining order that would allow it to keep using Amazon's web-hosting services.

The same day, Parler transferred its domain name to Sammamish, Wash.-based Epik, which hosts the similar far-right social media network Gab.

That's not to say Parler lives again: The conservative Twitter competitor will still need to migrate its operations to a new hosting provider.

And Parler's suit against Amazon got off to a bumbling start. The social network filed a day late, obviating its request for a temporary restraining order. Nor did it serve Amazon with its complaint, as court rules require. The judge ordered Parler to serve Amazon with the complaint before 5 p.m. Monday or risk having the case thrown out. As of 7 p.m. Monday, it remained unclear whether Parler had complied.

Tech giants took swift action to suspend or restrict social media accounts belonging to Trump and his supporters, saying those users had instigated the mayhem at the Capitol. The purge prompted many of those users to flee to Parler, which briefly became the No. 1 free app downloaded on Apple's App Store, according to the lawsuit.

Amazon terminated Parler's accounts Sunday, saying the social network had violated its terms of service by inadequately policing content on the site. In its letter to Parler, Amazon included screenshots of posts advocating and glorifying violence against Trump opponents, and noted there had been a "steady increase" of such violent content on the social network.

Parler accused Amazon of collaborating with Twitter, in violation of antitrust laws, to "kill Parler's business — at the very time it is set to skyrocket," according to the complaint.

"Because of AWS false claims, leaked to the public, Parler has not only lost current and future customers, but Parler has also been unable to find an alternative web-hosting company," the company wrote in its complaint. "In short, AWS' false claims have made Parler a pariah."

 

But Parler's move to Epik casts doubt upon that statement. The attorney representing Parler in the suit, Spokane-based David Groesbeck, could not be reached for comment. As of Monday evening, Groesbeck's website redirected to an "under construction" page, but online reviews indicate he specializes in small business and property disputes. Several real estate holding companies and a tobacco import business are registered in his name.

Epik has emerged in recent years as a home for far-right websites, hosting conspiracy theory channel InfoWars and neo-Nazi site The Daily Stormer in addition to Gab.

Epik issued a lengthy and circuitous statement Sunday castigating Twitter and Facebook for suspending accounts of Trump and his supporters and drawing an equivalency between the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and ongoing protests over police brutality, sparked by the death of George Floyd last summer.

"Without smarter discernment outside of a mob-based judgement [sic] of instant convenience, the decisions we make now may ultimately be utilized to reduce liberties that many take for granted," the statement said.

In the same statement, however, Epik pointed to its own efforts to strip dangerous content from the internet. In 2018, Epik announced it would stop hosting far-right message board 8chan after law enforcement linked its users to three mass shootings.

Epik CEO Rob Monster, reached by phone Monday, declined to comment further on the statement, which was signed by the company's senior vice president for communications, but said it was reflective of his viewpoints.

In October, the company posted a series of blog posts riddled with conspiracy theories after PayPal terminated the domain registrar's account. The online payments processor said it could no longer bear the risk of working with Epik, Mashable reported at the time.

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