MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
Changing gears now - a federal judge in Seattle has ruled that Amazon does not have to restore service to Parler. Parler is a social network favored by Trump supporters. Amazon terminated its Web hosting contract with Parler, saying the platform failed to take down posts that encouraged and incited violence. Parler then sued. So that is how we got here. For more on the ruling, we are joined by NPR tech reporter Bobby Allyn. And we should note Amazon is a financial supporter of NPR.
Hey there, Bobby.
BOBBY ALLYN, BYLINE: Hey, Mary Louise.
KELLY: So what exactly is the judge saying here?
ALLYN: Yeah. So the federal judge, Barbara Rothstein, said Amazon was well within its rights to end its contract with Parler over posts that were glorifying violence. You know, Parler had a bunch of claims in its lawsuit, but one of them was that Amazon severing ties was anti-competitive, that Amazon was basically trying to hurt a smaller tech company. And the judge said Parler just offered no real evidence of that. So in short, you know, the judge is saying here that Amazon saying no to incendiary speech is perfectly legal.
KELLY: Now, Parler is a social network, as we said, relatively new on the scene, popular with Trump supporters. What else do we need to know about it?
ALLYN: Yeah. So it's part of a number of sites that are sort of alternative social media sites that have been gaining popularity lately. I mean, one of Parler's biggest supporters was a major donor to former President Donald Trump. And Parler's calling card is being aggressively hands-off when it comes to what people can say and post. But the issue is sometimes that approach has, you know, let things like hate speech and violence go untouched.
KELLY: Yeah. Well, and what does today's decision mean for its future? Is this the end of Parler?
ALLYN: It very well may be. I mean, you know, Parler's said that, you know, Amazon's move cutting its ties may be - may mean the extinction of Parler. We just have to see. But, you know, right when it happened, Mary Louise, Parler's CEO said, oh, don't worry, everyone. We'll be back up in no time. But that hasn't been so easy because the company's basically become persona non grata on the Internet, and that's because of its role in the Capitol riots. I mean, many planned the violence and documented it at length on Parler, which has now turned into a business problem. I mean, the last six Web hosts Parler has reached out to have refused to work with them.
Now, Parler and its 15 million users say that is unfair. But, you know, I talked to many researchers and hate speech experts, and they, on the other hand, are very much welcoming this news of Parler being pushed off the Internet.
KELLY: You've given us a taste of what Parler has been saying in its defense. Have they reacted yet to today's decision?
ALLYN: Not yet. But Parler's website, if you go to it, is now just sort of a shell. It's, like, this landing page. It has a welcome note. And you can't post or share anything or create an account, but it does have a note from Parler's CEO. And it says, quote, "We will not let civil discourse perish." So Parler is saying that they will try to find a way somehow to reemerge.
KELLY: And just situate this in the context of the many legal battles that Big Tech finds itself straight in the middle of these days.
ALLYN: Yeah, yeah. So on the one hand, here's this relative upstart, you know, testing the power of Big Tech. And this decision shows Big Tech won. But, you know, there's another story here, and I think it's that this is really a window into how tech companies - you know, Parlers of the world but smaller ones, you know, too - are grappling with the future of speech online. I mean, the insurrection attempt on the Capitol, you know, has caused what some are calling the great deplatforming, right? We saw Trump get banned on social media and now so many others. So these kinds of push-and-pull battles over the balance between, you know, free speech and content moderation...
ALLYN: They are just heating up.
KELLY: Thank you, Bobby.
ALLYN: Thanks, Mary Louise.
KELLY: NPR's Bobby Allyn.
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