A federal judge in Seattle has denied an initial attempt by Parler to require Amazon Web Services to restore cloud services to the controversial social network, referencing the Jan. 6 breach of the U.S. Capitol as one of the factors in the decision.
“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 U.S. Capitol,” wrote U.S. District Judge Barbara Jacobs Rothstein in the ruling Thursday afternoon. “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.”
Amazon removed Parler’s access to its cloud services on Jan. 10, saying that it had failed to properly moderate abusive and violent posts, in violation of the AWS Acceptable Use Policy. The social network has been embraced by conservatives as an alternative to Twitter. It takes a more relaxed approach to moderating speech and user behavior on the platform.
Key paragraph in U.S. District Judge Barbara Jacobs Rothstein’s denial of Parler’s motion for preliminary injunction against @awscloud seeking reinstatement on AWS. pic.twitter.com/BC7ST1IT3O
— toddbishop (@toddbishop) January 21, 2021
The ruling on Parler’s motion for preliminary injunction is just the first key step in the legal process and does not resolve the entire case.
However, Rothstein made it clear that Parler has a tough road ahead. She wrote that “the likelihood of Parler prevailing on its claims is not a close call” for purposes of the preliminary injunction ruling, and added that “Parler’s allegations at this time are both inaccurate and unsupported, and are disputed by evidence submitted by AWS.”
Among other factors, the judge said there was no evidence at this stage that Amazon and Twitter had conspired to shut down Parler to Twitter’s benefit.
As part of its larger argument in the case, Amazon is leveraging the “sword” provision of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act that gives digital platforms immunity from lawsuits over blocking or labeling offensive content. Rothstein notes in the ruling that Parler “is not asserting a violation of any First Amendment rights, which exist only against a governmental entity, and not against a private company like AWS.”
Parler’s website this week came back online in limited form, but its core features and mobile apps remain unavailable.