Antitrust Law Daily House lawmaker calls for investigation into shutdown of Parler, as social media app sues Amazon Web Services
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Monday, January 11, 2021

House lawmaker calls for investigation into shutdown of Parler, as social media app sues Amazon Web Services

By Jeffrey May, J.D.

Rep. Devin Nunes seeks Justice Department investigation after site favored by conservatives gets pulled from Amazon Web Services. Separately, Parler alleges a conspiracy between Amazon and rival Twitter.

Social media app Parler has gone dark after Amazon Web Services (AWS) stopped supporting the site reportedly due to posts inciting violence in violation of AWS terms of service. In addition, Google and Apple have removed the service, favored by conservatives, from their respective app stores. In response, Rep. Devin Nunes (R., Cal.) is calling for a Department of Justice investigation into the moves by the tech giants. In addition, Parler has sued AWS for an antitrust violation and breach of contract related to the termination of its cloud computing services account.

"The effect is that there is no longer a free and open site for any American to get on any longer because these big companies, Apple, Amazon, Google," said Nunes in an interview with Maria Bartiromo on the Fox News Network on January 10 in response to the moves by the tech companies. "This is clearly a violation of antitrust, civil rights, the RICO statute," the congressman added.

Nunes suggested that a racketeering investigation was needed "on all the people that coordinated this attack" on Parler and conservative voices.

"I have three-million followers on Parler," said Nunes. "I will no longer be able to communicate with those people. And they’re Americans." The lawmaker said that the decision to pull Parler impacts not just Republicans, but anyone who doesn’t want to be regulated by "left-wingers" at Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, "where you get shadow banned."

Parler CEO John Matze confirmed the move by AWS and the departure other vendors. "Every vendor from text messages services, to email providers, to our lawyers all ditched us too, on the same day," Matze said.

Other members of Congress have questioned whether tech companies were silencing conservative views on social media. Last October, Republican senators led a Commerce Committee hearing at which the CEOs of Facebook, Google, and Twitter defended their respective platform’s work in addressing political posts and advertising, hate speech, and incitements to violence, as well as the spread of misinformation. The senators grilled the companies on their allegedly discriminatory application of content moderation policies.

Antitrust suit against AWS. On January 11, Parler filed a complaint in the federal district court in Seattle, seeking a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunctive relief, and damages as a result of its termination (Parler LLC v. Amazon Web Services Inc., Case No. 2:21-cv-00031-BJR).

According to Parler, AWS violated antitrust laws by reducing competition in the microblogging services market to the benefit of Twitter, a rival of Parler. AWS informed Parler that it was terminated because content on the Parler website violated AWS’s terms of service. Parler alleges that "equivalent, if not greater, violations of AWS’s terms of service by Twitter have apparently been ignored by AWS." In addition, the complaint states that when Twitter permanently banned President Donald Trump from its platform, conservative users began to flee Twitter en masse for Parler. "By suspending Parler’s account, AWS will remove from the market a surging player, severely restraining commerce in the microblogging services market," Parler alleges.

The complaint also asserts that AWS is breaching it contract with Parler, which requires AWS to provide Parler with a 30-day notice before terminating service and that AWS is committing intentional interference with prospective economic advantage given the millions of users expected to sign up in the near future. Parler states that it has tried to find alternative companies to host it and they have fallen through.

Attorneys: David J. Groesbeck (David J. Groesbeck, P.S.) for Parler LLC.

Companies: Alphabet Inc.; Amazon Web Services Inc.; Apple, Inc.; Facebook, Inc.; Google, LLC; Twitter, Inc.; Parler LLC

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