Tuesday, May 11, 2021

GOP lawmakers grill Google, Apple and Amazon over Parler shutdowns

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In the letter — addressed to Google CEO Sundar Pichai, Apple CEO Tim Cook and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos — the lawmakers say that the companies’ actions “seem to lack any of the procedural fairness” usually afforded in such cases and “create the appearance of close coordination.”

The view from the companies: Google and Apple booted the social media site from their app stores a few days after the storming of the Capitol by former President Donald Trump’s supporters, saying the company failed to adequately address threats of violence on the platform.

“We have always supported diverse points of view being represented on the App Store, but there is no place on our platform for threats of violence and illegal activity,” Apple said in a statement at the time. “Parler has not taken adequate measures to address the proliferation of these threats to people’s safety.”

Amazon later cut off Parler from its powerful cloud hosting service, Amazon Web Services, effectively forcing the site offline.

Broadening their target: Republicans have long accused social media giants such as Google, Facebook and Twitter of stifling conservative viewpoints, a charge they deny. But in the wake of the Parler takedowns, conservatives have also targeted those accusations at Amazon and Apple, which have traditionally avoided the brunt of such allegations.

Parler filed an antitrust lawsuit against Amazon in January over the shutdown, suggesting the company’s decision was “motivated by political animus.” A federal judge rejected Parler’s attempt to force Amazon to reinstate it later that month, saying the e-commerce giant was within its rights to suspend the social network. Parler has since dropped that suit and filed a separate one in Washington state alleging breach of contract.

What’s next: The lawmakers’ missive demands details by April 15 about how the companies viewed Parler’s account and who was involved in their final decisions to suspend the site, as well as information on how the companies usually review potential violations.

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