Parler, the social media website popular with Donald Trump supporters which was banned on Apple, Google, and Amazonâ€™s platforms, has returned online.
While the social media site has not regained full operability, there are now two messages at its URL. Â
â€œNow seems like the right time to remind you all â€” both lovers and haters â€” why we started this platform. We believe privacy is paramount and free speech essential, especially on social media. Our aim has always been to provide a nonpartisan public square where individuals can enjoy and exercise their rights to bothâ€�, a statement on Parlerâ€™s website reads.
â€œWe will resolve any challenge before us and plan to welcome all of you back soon. We will not let civil discourse perish!â€�
The second is a more succinct post from CEO John Matze made on 16 January: â€œHello world, is this thing on?â€�
When Parler was banned from using Amazon Web Services to host its site, it went offline, since the company no longer had access to servers that could store the actual content that had been posted on the platform. Since then, Parler has been looking for new ways to get online while being banned from many major providers of web hosting and other internet services.Â
The Parler domain appears to have been registered with Epik, a company that allows websites to register their domain names as well as a host of other services designed to power websites. Epik has also supported not only Parler but also other social media websites such as Gab and 8Chan.
However, Epik told CNN that it does not provide Parler’s web hosting. It is currently unclear which company is providing server support for Parler.
â€œWith respects to a future relationship between Epik and Parler, it is important to note that our conversations to date have been focused on improvements in policy, rather than specific capabilities for hosting and service provisionâ€�, Epik said in a statement on 14 January. Â
â€œAs the capacity exists for Parler to purchase servers direct almost anywhere in the world, the most critical elements of any return online should be first focused on the significant responsibility they carry for selfâ€� policing, better governance, and more capable enforcement of policyâ€�.
According to one employee familiar with the companyâ€™s attempts to find new hosting services after being banned from Amazon, the social media site has been discussing a yet-to-be-announced deal with Cloudrovia, another provider of tools to websites.
A deal â€œover six figuresâ€� that has been discussed for â€œalmost a weekâ€� is expected to be announced, with Cloudrovia â€œmassively expanding server capabilitiesâ€�, the employee said. Â
A screenshot of an email shared with The Independent, with the subject line â€œCloudrovia.com will hostâ€� and sent to a Parler.com email address, seemingly describes the server capabilities necessary to host the site.
However, the move has been seen as controversial within the company. â€œItâ€™s all gone very dark [and] quietâ€�, they said, adding that employees have said they will leave the company should Cloudrovia announce the deal, feeling â€œhesistant and confusedâ€�.
Other companies sent messages to Cloudrovia saying they would withdraw their custom should the company host Parler, including furniture brand Savs and video calling platform Pijin.
â€œYes. We are pulling our use of all Cloudrovia services. They are already supporting Parlerâ€�, a Pijin spokesperson told The Independent via email.
â€œParler have been directly involved in the promotion of propaganda. They have instigated violence, destruction of government property & murder. They are incubating the plotting of terrorist attacks. It’s not something will support. We won’t be using Cloudrovia & their services any longer.â€�
A Savs spokesperson said that the company does â€œnot condone any of the hate speech that circulates on Parler.â€�
â€œA partner company of ours that also works with Cloudrovia informed us of their partnership with Parlerâ€�, they continued. â€œWe have read Cloudroviaâ€™s statements on free speech & we will not work with a company opens their doors to Parler.â€�
According to the employee, Cloudroviaâ€™s CEO issued an internal statement stating that it had â€œoffered our services to Parler indefinitelyâ€� and that the company had been in communication with the team since the ban took effect.
The CEO also apparently said employees should remember the â€œgreat lengthsâ€� made for â€œthe preservation of free speech.â€� Â
In a public blog post shared on 15 January, Cloudroviaâ€™s founder said that it does not support â€œviolence, anti-government riots or extremism in any formâ€� but that â€œour mainstream society has seen the horrifying effects of free speech oppression from the far-right but seem to be very accepting of the same oppression from the far-left.â€�
â€œYou may not support the current leader of the USA. However if you respect democracy, you will have considered that 75 million americans [sic] voted him into power. The recent bans on social media signal a dangerous threat to our democracyâ€�, the statement continues. Â
â€œWe have witnessed the silencing of an elected politician by non-elected entrepreneurs. Taking away anyones [sic] voice, be it your neighbour or local shop keeper, should worry us all. The fact this voice belongs to the elected leader of the free world, exhibits the frightening power of tech.â€�
The statement goes on to criticise Apple and Google for platforming Parler â€“ claiming the app was launched with â€œâ€˜uncensored free speechâ€™ as a key featureâ€� â€“ before removing it after the events at the Capitol Building.
Google said it suspended Parler â€œin light of this ongoing and urgent public safety threat.â€�
In an email to Parler executives, Apple wrote: “We have received numerous complaints regarding objectionable content in your Parler service, accusations that the Parler app was used to plan, coordinate, and facilitate the illegal activities” in Washington DC.
Amazon further removed Parler by taking it off Amazon Web Services. Amazon told Parler that it had seen â€œa steady increase in this violent content on your website, all of which violates our termsâ€�. Â
â€œAWSâ€™s decision to effectively terminate Parlerâ€™s account is apparently motivated by political animus,â€� states the lawsuit.
â€œThere is no merit to these claims. AWS provides technology and services to customers across the political spectrum, and we respect Parlerâ€™s right to determine for itself what content it will allowâ€�, an Amazon spokesperson said in a statement. Â
â€œHowever, it is clear that there is significant content on Parler that encourages and incites violence against others, and that Parler is unable or unwilling to promptly identify and remove this content, which is a violation of our terms of service. We made our concerns known to Parler over a number of weeks and during that time we saw a significant increase in this type of dangerous content, not a decrease, which led to our suspension of their services Sunday evening.â€�
Moreover, Parler encourages users to hand over more identifying information than Facebook or Twitter, including their driversâ€™ license, in order to receive a â€œverified real personâ€� badge, similar to Twitterâ€™s blue tick. Â
â€œ[Law enforcement] can just subpoena AWS once people start digging through this stuff. remember: those people were dumb enough to give Parler photos of their IDsâ€� one hacker who was examining the data said.
Neither Parler nor Cloudrovia responded to repeated requests for comment when contacted by The Independent. Â
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