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Parler sues Amazon for antitrust violations, requests temporary restraining order

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Free speech social network Parler has filed an antitrust lawsuit against tech giant Amazon over its decision to terminate its Amazon Web Services (AWS) web hosting contract with Parler.

The sudden termination of Parler’s AWS web hosting took the platform offline, putting a stop to its rapid surge in user growth and leaving the millions of existing Parler users unable to access the platform.

Parler’s lawsuit highlights how Amazon, the third-largest company in the US, has selectively enforced its rules against Parler and accuses Amazon of violating its contract in a way that has “harmed Parler” and that will “kill Parler’s business.”

We obtained a copy of the lawsuit for you here.

The lawsuit accuses Amazon of three counts:

  1. Violating Section 1 of the Sherman Antitrust Act in combination with Twitter.
  2. Breached its contract with Parler
  3. Tortious interference with a contract or business expectancy

The lawsuit cites Amazon’s inconsistent treatment of Parler and Twitter, one of Parler’s competitors, and the impact Amazon’s actions will have on Parler’s business to support its first count that Amazon has violated the Sherman Antitrust Act.

The lawsuit notes that AWS recently signed a multi-year deal with Twitter and states that AWS’s reasons for terminating Parler are “not consistent with its treatment of Twitter, indicating a desire to harm Parler.”

“Friday night one of the top trending tweets on Twitter was ‘Hang Mike Pence’ But AWS has no plans nor has it made any threats to suspend Twitter’s account,” the lawsuit adds.

Additionally, the lawsuit states that “by suspending Parler’s account, AWS will remove from the market a surging player, severely restraining commerce in the microblogging services.”

The breach of contract count focuses on Amazon’s failure to provide 30 days notice before terminating Parler’s AWS account.

According to the complaint, the current AWS Customer Agreement with Parler allows the contract to be terminated “for cause if the other party is in material breach of this Agreement and the material breach remains uncured for a period of 30 days from receipt of notice by the other party.” The lawsuit also notes that Parler addressed posts that AWS had brought to Parler on January 8 and 9 which means that “there was no uncured material breach of the Agreement for 30 days, as required for termination.”

“This termination will immediately make it impossible for Parler to have an online presence for at least a week, depriving Parler’s current users of any use of the app and website, and completely preventing any new users from downloading and using the app, or the website,” the lawsuit states. “Thus, AWS will have breached its contract with and harmed Parler.”

For the tortious interference count, the lawsuit claims that “by terminating Parler’s account, AWS will intentionally interfere with the contracts Parler has with millions of its present users, as well as with the users it is projected to gain this week.”

It notes that AWS was aware of Parler’s user numbers, public speculation that President Trump could be switching to Parler and likely bring millions of followers with him, and that Parler was about to go to the market to raise money.

“AWS intentionally will interfere with Parler’s current contracts and future expected customer relationships by terminating Parler’s Agreement with it under the pretext that Parler was in violation of that contract when AWS knew Parler was not in violation (and when Twitter was engaging in identical conduct but AWS did not terminate its contract with Twitter),” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit is seeking a temporary restraining order for AWS to maintain Parler’s account until further notice and to grant Parler damages.

In addition to these counts, Parler’s lawsuit claims that AWS was “apparently motivated by political animus” and that “AWS false claims” resulted in Parler being unable to find an alternative web hosting company:

“AWS knew its allegations contained in the letter it leaked to the press that Parler was not able to find and remove content that encouraged violence was false—because over the last few days Parler had removed everything AWS had brought to its attention and more. Yet AWS sought to defame Parler nonetheless. And 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. In short, AWS false claims have made Parler a pariah.”

Related: ?How Big Tech uses its stranglehold to stamp out alt-tech competitors

In summary, the lawsuit highlights how a small selection of mega-corporations in Silicon Valley can crush an alternative competitor, take them offline, and leave them with little recourse.

Over the course of two days, the tech giants Apple and Google booted Parler from their app stores and then Amazon terminated their AWS web hosting. The end result is that three tech giants collectively throttled an alternative social media platform’s ability to distribute an app to smartphone users and then took it offline completely.

These mega-corporations do this by selectively applying their rules. The standard Amazon and Apple applied to Parler hasn’t been applied to Twitter which still has its multi-year AWS contract and App Store app.

“Parler has tried to find alternative companies to host it and they have fallen through. It has no other options,” the lawsuit states “Without AWS, Parler is finished as it has no way to get online. And a delay of granting this TRO [temporary restraining order] by even one day could also sound Parler’s death knell as President Trump and others move on to other platforms.”

In a statement on Parler’s lawsuit, an AWS spokesperson told Reclaim The Net:

“There is no merit to these claims. AWS provides technology and services to customers across the political spectrum, and we respect Parler’s right to determine for itself what content it will allow. However, it is clear that there is significant content on Parler that encourages and incites violence against others, and that Parler is unable or unwilling to promptly identify and remove this content, which is a violation of our terms of service. We made our concerns known to Parler over a number of weeks and during that time we saw a significant increase in this type of dangerous content, not a decrease, which led to our suspension of their services Sunday evening.”

Update – January 12, 2020: Added a statement from an AWS spokesperson.

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