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Apple and Google put conservative social network Parler on notice for violent posts

January 9, 2021, 1:58 AM UTC

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Parler, a social media haven for Trump supporters, has been awash in violent rhetoric since the U.S. Capitol mayhem on Wednesday. Some users have lauded the rioters as “patriots,” and suggesting that the “war” isn’t over.

On Friday,Apple threatened to boot the social network from its App Store within 24 hours if it doesn’t clean up its service (update: Apple removed Parler late Saturday). Meanwhile, Google suspended Parler from its Google Play app store, saying it won’t reinstate the service until the violent comments are removed.

Parler’s traffic rose rapidly last year after Twitter and Facebook started more aggressively labeling and removing posts because of misinformation, discrimination, and incitement to violence. As a result, Trump supporters, including high-profile conservatives like Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Fox News talk show host Sean Hannity, and conservative political commentator Dan Bongino flocked to the service.

Parler, founded in 2018, takes a more lax approach to policing its site. It allows indecent content as long as it conveys news, personal experiences, or to make political statements.

But violent content is supposed to be placed behind a filter that obscures “sensitive” content. Only violent posts that appear “gratuitous and presented to threaten only” are prohibited. 

But on Friday, many violent posts were easy to find on Parler, even without the filter as a safety net. Some users had posted gifs suggesting some Democratic politicians should be hanged, called for citizens to “armor up,” get “ready for battle,” and take “pitchforks” and “torches” to their local officials. Others suggested a secondary attack on the U.S. Capitol, some on Jan. 17 and others on Jan. 19.

“When will you #wakeupamerica,” a user by the name of Rapperjizzle408 posted on Friday. “Your words are no longer saving shit #civilwar is #necessary now!”

A user, who goes by TheInkaMatrix, took it a step further: “The only medicine for traitors and Marxists [is] death.”

Parler CEO John Matze responded to the threats from Apple and Google to cut off his app by posting a statement attacking them. “We will not cave to pressure from anti-competitive actors! We will and always have enforced our rules against violence and illegal activity,” he said, ignoring the many violent posts published daily. “But we WON’T cave to politically motivated companies and those authoritarians who hate free speech!”

Parler enlists volunteer to moderate objectionable content. It hasn’t recently disclosed how many are on the job. In July, it said it had 100 volunteers.

Other social media companies have cracked down on Trump. For example, on Friday, Twitter went to the extraordinary length of placing a permanent ban on Trump and taking oversight of the official @POTUS and @WhiteHouse Twitter handles.

If its app becomes permanently unavailable through Apple and Google, Parler will have huge problem on its hands. It wouldn’t be able add new users or release updates to its app, likely putting an end to its rise in MAGA media.