The Banning of Parler App Opens up Free Speech Questions

Isaiah Vennetti, Senior Staff Writer

Recently, the relatively new “Parler” app has caused an uproar among different platforms. These platforms include: Google, Apple, Amazon, and possibly more to come. Why would three of the most dominant e-companies in our world, wanting to collectively ban a social media app? Banning an app is truly peculiar since most social media platforms are encouraged and created for user’s public communication. The first thing that may come to mind, which happens with most apps, is that the company creating the app is taking user data and selling it, thus the shutdown is warranted. Not so with this app, favored by Conservative supporters of Donald Trump. In this case, the app has been cut off because of the claim that it’s being used to incite violence, particularly tying-in with the violence at the Capitol. “In a letter obtained by CNN Business that was sent to Parler Chief Policy Officer Amy Peikoff… Amazon Web Services said that in recent weeks it has reported 98 examples to Parler of ‘posts that clearly encourage and incite violence.’ The letter includes screenshots of several examples.”  Sources indicate that Parler President Matze responded by stating that social media monopolies are now trying to inhibit free speech. 

The Parler App is a social platform founded in 2018 by John Matze and Jared Thomson, two Conservative programmers. It has an estimated 4.8 million users, which reportedly is a very rapid growth. The app was launched by a wealthy investor, Rebekah Mercer. She and her family played a big part in Donald Trump’s presidential election back in 2016. The app was produced by the founders because they believe other apps like Twitter and Facebook are biased against all conservatives and try to silence conservative discussion, sources state. Parler became  particularly popular over the summer of 2020. 

Hubbard High School students offered various options of the take down. When asked if the Parler App had any part in the attack of the Capitol, Senior Courtney Amrich had stated, “Yes, it was known that a lot of conservatives and Trump supporters gathered collectively on the app, and planned the attack.” Still, Amrich’s comments are hearsay as there is no definitive published proof that the platform was used for this purpose.  So the question of censorship must be considered. 

Wired.com brings up this controversy with an entirely unique situation in the banning of Parler: “Never before have three of the most dominant Silicon Valley corporations—all of them subjects of Congress’s massive antitrust investigations—simultaneously banned a social media platform because they don’t approve of its policies around user speech. They have, in effect, decided that they get to moderate the moderators. And that raises a number of difficult questions. Indeed it does.

 Another senior, Whintey Hendrix states, “I don’t know the whole process as to how an app can become banned, but if other huge companies are saying the app is harmful, then I agree that the app should be taken down.” And yet, there are questions about dangerous and racist speech promoted in the past on platforms like Facebook and Twitter, still those platforms continue untouched.  It is a question all of us need to consider. Is our democracy and the quality of free speech being threatened or are these actions by Google, Amazon and Apple completely justified? 

 

     

Sources: 

https://www.cnn.com/2021/01/09/tech/parler-suspended-apple-app-store/index.html

https://www.wired.com/story/parler-bans-new-chapter-free-speech-wars/

https://www.wired.com/story/congress-unveils-plan-curb-big-tech-power/