Recently, Amazon Web Services suddenly cut servers to social media site Parler, leaving it scrambling offline for a month. Parler, now back on line, has been suing Amazon in federal court. However, the social media site has abruptly changed tactics, according to a Hill report. It has dropped the federal suit. It is now suing Amazon in Washington State instead.
It’s possible that Parler’s choice of venue in which to sue was motivated by the fact that Amazon is Seattle-based. Seattle passed a law in 1999 against viewpoint discrimination: “Seattle’s sweeping ban on discrimination based on political ideology doesn’t just apply to employment or public accommodations. It also includes a “Fair Contracting Practices Ordinance” banning discrimination in contracting.” (Mind Matters News, February 16, 2021)
More from The Hill about Parler’s case in general:
Parler alleges Amazon leaked “false allegations to the press” about Parler and damaged the platform’s reputation. The platform also accuses the tech giant of breaching the contract with the site by not giving a 30-day notice before pulling it offline.Rebecca Klar, “Parler drops federal lawsuit against Amazon, files in state court” at The Hill (March 3, 2021)
Here’s Parler’s Washington State filing, which reveals some interesting possible background on why Amazon acted as it did:
8. First, a few weeks before terminating Parler’s services, AWS had signed a major new contract with Parler’s principal competitor, Twitter. Second, when Facebook and Twitter moved to ban former President Trump from their platforms in early January, it was expected that Trump would move to Parler, bringing many of his 90 million followers with him. And AWS knew that Trump and Parler had been in negotiations over such a move. If this were to materialize, Parler would suddenly be a huge threat to Twitter in the microblogging market, and to Amazon itself in the digital advertising market.
9. Thus, AWS pulled Parler’s plug. And to further kick Parler while it was down, after it had terminated the contract, AWS directed hackers to Parler’s back-up databases and has been secretly selling Parler user data to anyone with a certain type of Amazon account.
Another problem with Amazon’s overall position as “Concerned Corporate Citizen” is hypocrisy. For example, the claim that Parler facilitated the Capital Hill riot of January 6 — cited as grounds for Amazon’s termination of services — must address in court the awkward fact that the primary organizing tools appear to have been Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram, according to documents filed in connection with the trials of rioters.
Similarly, Amazon’s concern about the spread of “fake news” glosses over the problem that its own algorithms encourage the spread of what it may regard as fake news by the very way they are constructed. The censorship Amazon practices, when it does, seems mostly erratic and trend-driven. That may not go down well in court if Seattle is really committed to opposition to viewpoint discrimination. Stay tuned.
You may also wish to read: Could a Seattle law hobble Amazon’s unaccountable censorship? John West discusses Amazon’s vulnerability in Seattle with Kara McKinney at Tipping Point. Amazon’s recent forays into delisting books based on political considerations could be considered viewpoint discrimination in its home town.
Consultant MD shows, Amazon markets COVID-19 vax misinformation. As a recent research study showed, while Amazon acts as a censor when it chooses, its basic algorithms would frustrate any real effort to deal with misinformation. Amazon’s algorithms track user interests, merely offering more such choices. Its occasional erratic censorship means careful users need outside sources.