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21 Jan 2021

Bobby Allyn, NPR

USA: Federal judge refuses Parler's bid to have service restored by Amazon

"Judge Refuses To Reinstate Parler After Amazon Shut It Down", 21 Jan 2021

A federal judge has refused to restore the social media site Parler after Amazon kicked the company off of its Web-hosting services over content seen as inciting violence.

... U.S. District Judge Barbara Rothstein sided with Amazon, which argued that Parler would not take down posts threatening public safety even in the wake of the attack on the U.S. Capitol and that it is within Amazon's rights to punish the company over its refusal.

"The Court rejects any suggestion that the public interest favors requiring [Amazon Web Services] to host the incendiary speech that the record shows some of Parler's users have engaged in," Rothstein wrote on Thursday. "At this stage, on the showing made thus far, neither the public interest nor the balance of equities favors granting an injunction in this case."

... In defending against the suit, Amazon considered the matter a simple case of breach of contract. The company flagged dozens of posts advocating violence, which is against its policies, and Parler failed to remove the posts, according to Amazon's attorneys.

... In a statement, Jeffrey Wernick, Parler's chief operating officer, said Rothstein not dismissing the case outright was notable. "We remain confident that we will ultimately prevail in the main case," he said.

... To experts who study online speech and infrastructure, the predicament Parler finds itself in reveals just how much control over the Internet is vested in Web hosts, an out-of-sight part of the Web that has the power to decide which sites live or die... In recent months, the biggest social media companies have drawn brighter lines around the limits of online free speech... But, as the case of Parler shows, the pressure on social media companies to police the speech on their platforms is shared by Web-hosting companies.

... Evelyn Douek, a lecturer at Harvard Law School, predicts more battles over online speech will erupt between sites that choose a hands-off approach and Web hosts that demand a more aggressive stance. And that troubles her... "It's harder to bring accountability to those choices when we don't even know who's making them or why they're being made." ... Another issue, Douek said, is the lack of oversight of Web hosts.