Social media platform Parler has been taken down by Amazon Web Services amid claims that the site is a hotbed of ‘violent content’.
Apple and Google have also taken it off of their app stores, effectively removing it from the internet. Amazon said it acted after finding several posts promoting violence in the wake of the Washington riots last week.
Parler has become increasingly popular since its inception in 2018 and has become a haven for Trump supporters, ‘free speech’ activists and members of the so-called ‘alt-right’.
Many view the platform as an alternative to traditional social media sites that enables them to air opinions freely.
However, though users see it is a platform for ‘free speech’, it is believed it is also being used to spread misinformation and hate speech in the run-up to the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden on January 20th.
Examples of such speech include posts calling for the killing of Muslims, Black Lives Matter leaders, mainstream media journalists and Democrat supporters and leaders.
Speaking to Fox News, Parler chief executive John Matze said on Sunday that every vendor “from text message services to email providers to our lawyers” have “ditched us”.
“We’re going to try our best to get back online as quickly as possible,” Matze said, “but we’re having a lot of trouble because every vendor we talk to says they won’t work with us because if Apple doesn’t approve and Google doesn’t approve, they won’t,” he added.
The popularity of social sites like Parler has spiked since Donald Trump was sworn in as president four years ago.
Since the removal of Parler, another social site pushing “free speech”, Gab, has seen a huge jump in users. In a tweet, the platform says it has “gained more users in the past two days than we did in our first two years of existing”.
Rhetoric circulating since the November 3rd, 2020 presidential election, where Trump has consistently accused Democrats of stealing the election, has fuelled anger with his supporters and right-wing hate groups.
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This led to the storming of the US Capitol building on Wednesday last week (6th January) as US lawmakers met to certify the electoral college votes and officially declare Joe Biden as the next president.
Before the protests, Trump held a rally at the White House where he continued to claim, without evidence, that the election was “stolen” from him and his supporters, and that he would join them in a protest down to the capitol building. “You will never take back our country with weakness,” Trump stated.
During the riots, activists smashed windows, invaded the house chambers, and caused lawmakers to shelter in their offices. Five people were also killed, including a police officer.
In response, social media giants Facebook and Twitter locked Trump‘s accounts on their platforms and took down a previous contentious post, with the Facebook vice-president of integrity Guy Rosen Tweeting: “We removed it because on balance we believe it contributes to, rather than diminishes, the risk of ongoing violence.”
Commenting on the potential repercussions of pushing right-wing voices to the fringes and off mainstream platforms, social media and influence specialist, Unsah Malik, told DIGIT: “I think this is more about consequences as opposed to repercussions. What we are witnessing with the US is horrific.
“Given the percentage of the population using social media as their main form of both communication and information consumption, it is absolutely up to social media platforms to take action in order to prevent a wider spread of violence. If Parler was a platform which incited such behaviour, then Parler is the platform to go.
“Of course this opens the debate on free speech, but if you can’t trust an individual or a specific group of people to maintain human decency – and you have the power to protect millions of others for the right cause in the name of humanity – then some sort of control needs to be enforced.
“If right-wing voices didn’t behave as such, no accounts would have been removed and no platforms would have revoked access.”