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Parler sues AWS, seeks restraining order

After abruptly losing web-hosting services, Parler sues AWS, alleging breach of contract and antitrust behavior.

Editor's note: This story was updated on Feb. 16, 2021.

Parler, a social networking site known for its far-right user base, has found a new home thanks to SkySilk Cloud Services in Chatsworth, Calif.

In a statement, CEO of the web hosting provider Kevin Matossian said SkySilk may not agree with some of Parler's content, but it supports the company's right to operate online. As part of its return, Parler released updated community guidelines stating the site will not knowingly allow the platform to be used for crime or unlawful acts and will remove content and users engaging in such activity.

After the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol Building, iOS and Android removed Parler from their app stores and AWS discontinued Parler's web hosting services. In early February, Parler fired former CEO and co-founder John Matze and replaced him with interim CEO Mark Meckler, an attorney and Tea Party Patriots co-founder.

Editor's note: This story was updated on Jan. 22, 2021.

Parler won't have its services reinstated on Amazon Web Services -- at least not yet. In a court filing on Jan. 21, U.S. District Judge Barbara Rothstein denied Parler's request for a preliminary injunction against AWS, which would have granted the social media site temporary web-hosting services until a verdict in the case has been rendered.

The court didn't dismiss Parler's claims, but, based on evidence included in the original filings from both AWS and Parler, concluded that Parler fell short of demonstrating that it is "likely to prevail on the merits of its claims" of anticompetitive behavior by AWS, breach of contract and intentional interference with its business expectancy, and denied the company's motion for a preliminary injunction.

 In a statement, Parler said, "We are disappointed by the judge’s ruling against our request for a preliminary injunction in our suit against Amazon AWS. We remain confident that we will ultimately prevail in the main case."

Editor's note: This story was updated on Jan. 13, 2021.

Parler, a social networking site known for its far-right user base, is suing Amazon Web Services for suspending its account, alleging that the move was "motivated by political animus" and violated antitrust laws.

Parler is seeking a temporary restraining order to maintain web-hosting services until the dispute is settled in court. AWS suspended Parler's account Sunday night, a day after Apple and Google removed the Parler app from their respective stores. Parler filed the lawsuit Monday, after their services were already suspended. 

The move to shut down Parler comes as social media giants like Twitter and Facebook suspended various accounts, including President Donald Trump's, for inciting violence related to the riots at the U.S. Capitol. The lawsuit, which was filed in Seattle federal court, claims that Parler was treated unfairly compared to its rival Twitter and that it wasn't given adequate notice before its web-hosting services were suspended.

AWS filed a response Tuesday denying Parler's allegations, stating the case is about "Parler's demonstrated unwillingness and inability to remove from the servers of Amazon Web Services content that threatens the public safety, such as by inciting and planning the rape, torture and assassination of named public officials and private citizens," and that there is no legal basis for AWS to host such content.

Parler lawsuit claims unfair treatment

AWS said it repeatedly made its concerns about violence-inciting content known to Parler, requested content be removed, reviewed the company's plans to address the problem, "only to determine that Parler was both unable or unwilling to do so."

"AWS suspended Parler's account as a last resort to prevent further access to such content, including plans for violence to disrupt the impending Presidential transition," according to the filing.

Parler claims AWS is participating in anti-competitive behavior, given its partnership and continued support of Twitter despite similar content. The lawsuit asserts that AWS has violated Section 1 of the Sherman Antitrust Act, which blocks agreements between two companies that might unreasonably prohibit trade.

"AWS's reasons for [suspending services] are not consistent with its treatment of Twitter, indicating a desire to harm Parler," according to the lawsuit.

When Twitter banned President Trump from its platform, users flocked to Parler, making it to the No. 1 most downloaded free app from Apple's app store, the lawsuit stated. It went on to equate terminating its access to AWS services to "pulling the plug on a hospital patient on life support," especially at a time of considerable growth. Parler has about 12 million users and planned for increased growth including the speculative addition of President Trump, who had nearly 89 million Twitter followers, according to the lawsuit.

The AWS filing denies interfering with Parler's business as well as violating the Sherman Act. AWS goes on to state that Parler is in breach of its customer agreement, which provided AWS grounds to suspend its cloud-computing services.

Parler struggles to find new hosting site

In its lawsuit, Parler claims a breach of contract of its own, stating AWS did not provide a 30-day notice before suspending its services, leaving the site adrift and stating that "both the apps and the website are written to work with AWS's technology."

It called the move by AWS a "death knell as President Trump and others move on to other platforms."

Parler appears to be looking for that new home. On Monday, Parler registered its domain name on Epik, a domain registrar known for hosting sites such as Gab that are considered far-right. For now, the site and app remain offline.

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