A district court judge Thursday denied Parler’s motion for a temporary restraining order against Amazon, which pushed the conservative social media platform offline last week for breaking its terms of service by inciting violence following the siege of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
Parler’s motion was attached to its broader lawsuit against Amazon Cloud Services alleging conspiracy in restraint of trade; breach of contract; and tortious interference. In considering a restraining order, Judge Barbara Jacobs Rothstein, U.S. District Court Judge for the Western District of Washington at Seattle, had to determine the likelihood that Parler would ultimately prevail on its claims. She said the service was out of luck on all three counts.
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“The Court explicitly rejects any suggestion that the balance of equities or the public interest favors obligating AWS to host the kind of abusive, violent content at issue in this case, particularly in light of the recent riots at the U.S. Capitol. That event was a tragic reminder that inflammatory rhetoric can—more swiftly and easily than many of us would have hoped—turn a lawful protest into a violent insurrection,” the judge wrote.
On the first allegation, the judge said, Parler has failed to demonstrate that it is likely to succeed on the merits of its conspiracy claim under the Sherman Act that Amazon and Twitter – which permanently suspended the account of former President Donald Trump for inciting the Capitol rioters – acted in concert. “The evidence it has submitted in support of the claim is both dwindlingly slight, and disputed by AWS. Importantly, Parler has submitted no evidence that AWS and Twitter acted together intentionally—or even at all—in restraint of trade… In short, Parler has proffered only faint and factually inaccurate speculation in support of a Sherman Act violation.”
She said Parler doesn’t deny that content posted on its platform violated the terms of its agreement with Amazon, claiming only that AWS failed to provide notice to Parler that Parler was in breach, and to give Parler 30 days to cure, as Parler claims is required. But she notes that the service agreement authorizes AWS to terminate “immediately upon notice.” The social media platform “has failed to raise more than the scantest speculation that AWS’s actions were taken for an improper purpose or by improper means.”
She was also dubious of evidence Parler submitted to support its tortious interference allegation.
In a court filing responding to the Parler suit, attorneys for the Jeff Bezos-led company said Parler’s suit “is not about suppressing speech or stifling viewpoints. It is not about a conspiracy to restrain trade. Instead, this case is about Parler’s demonstrated unwillingness and inability to remove from the servers of Amazon Web Services (AWS) content that threatens the public safety, such as by inciting and planning the rape, torture, and assassination of named public officials and private citizens.”
Parler, a young service launched in 2018, had seen its user base surge as conservative voices, QAnon acolytes and stop-the-steal conspiracy theorists first grew disillusioned with traditional social media, then found their conspirator-in-chief blocked from the platforms, including Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Snapchat. Apple and Google yanked Parler from their app stores.
It’s not clear when Parler will return. It’s homepage notes technical difficulties and says: “Now seems like the right time to remind you all — both lovers and haters — why we started this platform. We believe privacy is paramount and free speech essential, especially on social media. Our aim has always been to provide a nonpartisan public square where individuals can enjoy and exercise their rights to both.”
Parler CEO John Matze told Fox News on Sunday night he was was confident the service would be back up by the end of the month.
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