Amazon Web Services (AWS) will shut down servers run by social network Parler, whose apps have also been removed from the Apple App Store and Google Play. The social network has advised users it will therefore be offline for up to a week while it rebuilds its service and accused big tech of conspiring to shut it down.
News of AWS’ decision not to serve Parler emerged in an email first reported by Buzzfeed but since obtained by The Register.
In the mail, the AWS Trust & Safety Team advised Parler it was in breach of the cloud giant’s terms of service. The Register has asked AWS to identify the clause(s) it believes were breached.
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The mail says AWS has identified “repeated” violations, among them 98 Parler posts “that clearly encourage and incite violence”. The email says AWS has sent Parler requests for content takedowns, but that only “some” has been removed and “not always with urgency.” The message adds that AWS believes that the social network’s plan to use volunteers as moderators “will not work”.
“AWS provides technology and services to customers across the political spectrum, and we continue to respect Parler’s right to determine for itself what content it will allow on its site,” the email continues. “However, we cannot provide services to a customer that is unable to effectively identify and remove content that encourages or incites violence against others. Because Parler cannot comply with our terms of service and poses a very real risk to public safety, we plan to suspend Parler’s account effective Sunday, January 10th, at 11:59PM PST.”
The mail concludes by saying AWS will preserve Parler’s data and “work with you as best as we can to help” with migration to another host.
Parler promoted itself as offering the chance to “Speak freely and express yourself openly, without fear of being ‘deplatformed’ for your views”. The service offered “minimalist Community Guidelines” that saw community members act as moderators. Parler did not curate users’ feeds, instead offering customisation tools. The company promised it would never sell user data to outside entities.
The company mission is “to create a social platform in the spirit of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
That offering saw the company win favour, and investment, from some who felt that other social networks’ moderation was unwelcome or stifled free speech. The company’s position translated into a growing following among supporters of US president Donald Trump and much discussion of last week’s storming of the US Capitol building.
Parler CEO John Matze has therefore suggested AWS’ decision was a political act and an anti-competitive decision.
“This was a coordinated attack by the tech giants to kill competition in the marketplace. We were too successful too fast,” he wrote on Parler [Screen capture here – Ed].
AWS provides services to customers across the political spectrum, and we respect Parler’s right to determine what content it will allow on its site
In another post he labelled AWS’ decision, and Apple’s and Google’s app store bans, as evidence that the three companies “want to keep their monopoly over speech” and foment division to stop people of all political persuasions from collaborating.
Matze also revealed the Parler had anticipated trouble with AWS.
“We prepared for events like this by never relying on Amazon’s proprietary infrastructure and building bare metal products,” he said, leading to “the possibility Parler will be unavailable on the internet for up to a week as we rebuild from scratch.”
In a Fox News interview Matze was less optimistic about the rebuild process.
“They [AWS] said you have 24 hours to take all your data and to find new servers,” he said. “Where are you going to find 300 to 500 servers in a 24-hour window? And how can you send all the data from everybody out to them in a 24-hour period?”
“It is an impossible feat.”
Which isn’t strictly correct, as disaster recovery plans can now very failover in a matter of minutes. Parler appears not to have had such a plan. However, if the social network has truly stayed clear of AWS proprietary tech, The Register imagines it will be using vanilla Linux servers, readily available virtual storage, and an easily replicable network structure.
On LinkedIn a sales manager for HPC-as-a-service company Penguin Computing offered to host Parler, so it may yet find an alternative host.
However, Matze told Fox News that all other suppliers have also chosen not to work with Parler, including a provider of text messaging services and even the company’s lawyer. The likes of EasyDNS, Cloudflare and GoDaddy have previously chosen not to provide their services to some companies, so it may be hard for Parler to quickly restore its operations. ®