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Apple, Amazon Join Crackdown on Parler

Tech giants are latest to tighten the screws on the blogging and social media service they accuse of allowing 'illegal activity' and violent messages -- but some critics fear moves could put free speech at risk.
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Just days after Twitter  (TWTR) - Get Twitter Inc. Report took away President Donald Trump's social media microphone, Apple  (AAPL) - Get Apple Inc. Report, Amazon  (AMZN) - Get Inc. Report and others are also cracking down on what they feel is dangerous talk that encourages violence.

Apple over the weekend has pulled Parler, a blogging and social networking service, from its app store, and Amazon is set to stop web hosting for the service. Parler bills itself as a privacy- and free speech-focused service, but has also become a favorite of right-wing commentators, and is allowing talk that encourages "illegal activity," according to the tech companies.

"We have always supported diverse points of view being represented on the App Store, but there is no place on our platform for threats of violence and illegal activity. Parler has not taken adequate measures to address the proliferation of these threats to people’s safety. We have suspended Parler from the App Store until they resolve these issues," said Apple in a statement obtained by TheStreet over the weekend.

Apple said it was pulling the app from its app store until Parler makes changes that address "direct threats of violence and calls to incite lawless action."

At the same time, Amazon is essentially cutting the cord on Parler, knocking it off its cloud hosting service, Amazon Web Services, starting Sunday before midnight, according to BuzzFeed News

AWS' action would effectively mean that Parler will go offline until it finds another hosting service, according to the BuzzFeed story. 

An Amazon spokeswoman declined to comment on the report to TheStreet, saying only that the story by BuzzFeed "has all details I can share." 

A message seeking comment from Parler was not immediately returned to TheStreet by Sunday afternoon. 

But a post by Parler Chief Executive John Matze called the actions a “coordinated attack by the tech giants to kill competition in the market place... You can expect the war on competition and free speech to continue, but don’t count us out,” according to Reuters, which also noted Alphabet's  (GOOGL) - Get Alphabet Inc. Report recent crackdown on the service.

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Media expert and commentator Dan Kennedy, called Amazon's move specifically as "worrisome." In a blog post over the weekend, Kennedy noted that AWS' hosting role is not comparable to Apple's and Google's app stores.

"I think it’s worth pointing out that AWS’s action against Parler is considerably more ominous than Google’s and Apple’s," wrote Kennedy, a journalism professor at Northeastern University. 

"It’s one thing for Apple and Google to throw the right-wing Twitter competitor Parler out if its app stores. It’s another thing altogether for Amazon Web Services to deplatform Parler," wrote Kennedy, who noted that AWS' action would be akin to a phone company "blocking all calls from a person or organization it deems dangerous," though Kennedy said he feels Parler "deserves no sympathy" for what its allows to be posted.

The major tech companies took the steps to restrict Parler just days after a throng of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol Building on Wednesday. Several people, including one police officer and Trump supporter, died during the violence that shook the nation and appears as a climax in Trump's efforts to cast the 2020 election as fraudulent. 

According to the BuzzFeed report, some Trump supporters used Parler to "coordinate the insurrection at the Capitol building on Wednesday."

BuzzFeed said that Amazon's letter to Parler noted "calls for violence propagating across the social network" that violated AWS' terms of service.

Nevada-based Parler, however, bills itself as answer to what it calls is big-tech policy "influenced by various special-interest groups."

The service says it's "built upon a foundation of respect for privacy and personal data, free speech, free markets, and ethical, transparent corporate policy."

This story has been updated.