A federal judge today rejected Parler’s motion for a preliminary injunction against Amazon Web Services (AWS), scuttling the social network’s attempt to quickly get back onto Amazon’s Web-hosting platform.
Parler, which bills itself as a conservative alternative to Twitter, had asked for a court order requiring Amazon to reinstate its Web-hosting service pending a full trial. But “Parler has fallen far short… of demonstrating, as it must, that it has raised serious questions going to the merits of its claims,” and it has failed to prove “that the balance of equities tips in its favor, let alone strongly so; or that the public interests lie in granting the injunction,” said the ruling by Judge Barbara Jacobs Rothstein in US District Court for the Western District of Washington.
Parler could still prevail in the case, but it won’t be reinstated to Amazon’s service in the meantime. Parler accused Amazon of conspiracy in restraint of trade, in violation of the Sherman Act; breach of contract; and tortious interference with business expectancy.
“AWS disputes all three claims, asserting that it is Parler, not AWS, that has violated the terms of the parties’ Agreement, and in particular AWS’s Acceptable Use Policy, which prohibits the ‘illegal, harmful, or offensive’ use of AWS services,” Rothstein wrote.
Amazon warned Parler repeatedly
Amazon cut off Parler’s Web-hosting service on January 10, saying that “we cannot provide services to a customer that is unable to effectively identify and remove content that encourages or incites violence against others.” Parler has shown that it “cannot comply with our terms of service and poses a very real risk to public safety,” Amazon also said.
Parler sued Amazon on January 11. Subsequently, Amazon said in a court filing that it issued warnings to Parler about more than 100 violent threats before disconnecting its service. As we wrote in previous coverage, posts that Amazon reported to Parler included calls for “killing a specific transgender person; actively wishing for a race war and the murder of Black and Jewish people; and killing several activists and politicians such as Stacey Abrams, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), and former President Barack Obama.”
Amazon’s court filing said:
This case 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 content that threatens the public safety, such as by inciting and planning the rape, torture, and assassination of named public officials and private citizens. There is no legal basis in AWS’s customer agreements or otherwise to compel AWS to host content of this nature. AWS notified Parler repeatedly that its content violated the parties’ agreement, requested removal, and reviewed Parler’s plan to address the problem, only to determine that Parler was both unwilling and unable 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.
Parler claims are weak, judge finds
Rothstein’s rejection of Parler’s motion said that “While Parler has not yet had an opportunity to conduct discovery, the evidence it has submitted in support of the [Sherman Act] 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.”
Parler claimed that “by pulling the plug on Parler but leaving Twitter alone despite identical conduct by users on both sites, AWS reveals that its expressed reasons for suspending Parler’s account are but pretext.” But Rothstein pointed out that “Parler and Twitter are not similarly situated, because AWS does not provide online hosting services to Twitter.”
Parler’s breach-of-contract claim is similarly weak, Rothstein wrote. Parler has not denied that it was in violation of its agreement with Amazon at the time of the service termination, and the customer agreement “gives AWS the right either to suspend or to terminate, immediately upon notice, in the event Parler is in breach,” Rothstein wrote.
On the tortious interference claim, “Parler has failed to allege basic facts that would support several elements of this claim” and “has failed to raise more than the scantest speculation that AWS’s actions were taken for an improper purpose or by improper means,” the judge wrote.
If Amazon was forced to reinstate Parler’s services now, before Parler deploys a more effective moderation system, the result would be “continued posting of the kind of abusive, violent content that caused AWS to shut Parler down in the first place,” the ruling said. It continued:
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 US 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.
Parler.com is currently online as a static webpage with several posts from conservative figures like Sean Hannity and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), along with a note about “technical difficulties.”