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Until Capitol riot, Amazon expressed scant concern about violent content on Parler, social network says

Katherine Khashimova Long, The Seattle Times on

Published in News & Features

SEATTLE — In the weeks leading up to the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, Amazon seemed excited by Parler’s growth and discussed expanding its business relationship with the conservative Twitter competitor, Parler said Wednesday.

In a court filing, Parler said that communication with Amazon continued as Parler prepared for the possibility that President Donald Trump could join the social network, bringing millions of new users with him.

The claims complicate Amazon’s portrayal of the events leading up to the Seattle tech giant’s suspension of Parler’s cloud service account Sunday. Amazon Web Services (AWS), Amazon’s cloud-computing arm, booted Parler off its servers after reports that some of the right-leaning platform’s 15 million users were advocating and glorifying violence against Trump opponents. Parler users were also among the mob storming the Capitol, Gizmodo reported.

In a lawsuit filed Monday in federal district court in Seattle, Parler asserted that Amazon’s actions breached their service contract and violated antitrust law. Responding Tuesday, Amazon contended that it had repeatedly expressed concern with Parler’s inadequate content moderation and had reported more than 100 problematic posts to Parler executives before ultimately determining that Parler had violated Amazon’s terms of use and suspending its account.

In its reply Wednesday, Parler said Amazon had whitewashed that timeline.

Amazon had been familiar with Parler’s content-moderation systems, which rely primarily on volunteers to flag abusive content after it had been posted, since 2018, Parler CEO John Matze said in a declaration filed Wednesday. And Amazon was aware as early as October that Trump was considering moving to Parler, under the pseudonym “Person X,” the declaration said.

 

Still, through December, Amazon representatives seemed excited about Parler’s growth, Parler’s attorney wrote in the social network’s filing Wednesday. In November and December, AWS and Parler discussed the possibility of Parler upgrading its account to use more expensive, proprietary AWS software, the filing said.

And while Amazon had sporadically flagged Parler posts for removal in November and December, AWS didn’t tell Parler that its “system of handling this material was inadequate or that Parler was in breach of its contract” until after the Jan. 6 riot, when pro-Trump mobs breached the Capitol building, according to the new filing from Parler.

As late as mid-December, Amazon told Parler that the two companies were “definitely in this journey” together to help Parler address concerns about harmful and violent posts, Parler said in its filing. The day of the riot, Amazon again questioned Parler about its content-moderation practices, but after receiving Parler’s reply told the social network it should consider the matter “resolved,” according to Parler’s filing.

Two days later, Amazon executives notified Parler that they would suspend Parler’s account because of a “steady increase” in violent content on the network, in violation of Amazon’s terms of service.

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