The mad rush to kill Parler

It will chill future innovation

Parler is dead. Long live Twitter!

Nobody is crying actual tears (except perhaps Parler CEO John Matze). It’s not the fact that Parler is gone that bothers me. It seems to me, a number of the people who inhabit that space were the type who migrated from certain Reddit basements that have been shut down or severely moderated. They’ll find another dark hole into which they dump their excrement.

I’m bothered by the way Parler was dispatched. There was a mad corporate rush to kill Parler. The service claimed over 12 million users, and was built—as most online services are these days—on various cloud computing pillars. These pillars were simultaneously knocked out from under Parler. The company may not (probably not) recover. Ever.

Parler was hosted on Amazon Web Services, the same AWS that is protesting losing the $10 billion “JEDI” contract to competitor Microsoft Azure. It used Stripe to process payments, Twilio to handle SMS communications (for user authentication), and Scylla Enterprise database to deal with the scale of realtime communications and storage. All these companies will no longer do business with Parler.

They all claim various violations of terms of service. Why a web hosting service, a communications service, and a database provider have TOS elements forcing a microblog to offer a certain level of moderation is questionable to me. I think, with some research, it can be determined that other clients of these companies have less moderation, more extreme elements, and violations of those same TOS elements. But the cause du jour is to kill Parler, because Trump-supporting QAnon-believing thugs use it, even though many more Trump-supporting QAnon-believing thugs use Twitter and Facebook.

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The fact that Parler was dominated by that kind of user, in itself, given the terrible events of January 6th, is reason to stop (suspend the service) and rethink what Parler’s users are doing. At least it should provide a good roadmap to law enforcement to round up the worst of the crowd.

But Amazon is claiming it had complaints about threats of violence on Parler. Why a Parler user would see threats online and complain to the service’s web host is also questionable to me. Why Amazon would give Parler just twenty-four hours to change its moderation policies or have the plug pulled is more questionable.

I never used Parler. I tried to join at one point because a bunch of friends of mine on Twitter bugged me to “come on over!” But I was never able to properly get the app running, and decided my time was better spent doing other things. Joining yet another social network for the sole purpose of hoisting the middle finger at Twitter just isn’t important enough to me.

I suspect that many people on Twitter feel the same way as I do. I realize Twitter is politically very left-leaning, and therefore their moderation policies are unevenly enforced. What’s “hate speech” to a San Francisco liberal is free speech to a farmer in Idaho, and vice versa.

Parler was founded as an alternative to Twitter, after a similar service, Gab, was shut down in 2017. Gab truly was a hive of neo-Nazis, Holocaust deniers, and trolls. After January 6th, Parler got fingered with the blame, because some of the insurrectionists apparently plotted the attack using the service.

From AdWeek:

The tech giants weren’t the only ones to drop Parler. “Every vendor, from text message services to email providers to our lawyers, all ditched us too, on the same day,” Parler CEO John Matze told Fox News on Sunday. That’s right—even their lawyers left them.

They didn’t give Parler a chance to actually fix anything, or to cooperate with law enforcement (giving one day notice is laughable). President Trump, to the best of my knowledge, doesn’t even use Parler. He uses (used) Twitter. Nobody is yelling for Twitter to shut down; in fact they praise Twitter for finally suspending Trump’s personal account, after making bank on it for years.

In fact, Twitter could have, and in my mind, should have, shut down Trump’s personal account the day he took office. A simple policy statement would have sufficed. Something like:

“Twitter believes that high government officials in office speak for the people they serve. Therefore, we believe it’s best if their personal accounts, during their terms, are frozen, and all tweet communications issue from officially registered government accounts. We believe this will improve accountability and clarity in official statements. While all users are entitled to personal expression, this platform will not lend itself to that purpose while these individuals serve in office.”

There. I solved the problem in 2017. But Twitter didn’t do that. It hemmed and hawed and complained about Trump’s tweets. It added tags to the tweets. It fact checked the tweets. It restricted the tweets. Then, finally, Jack shut down Trump’s account, permanently, to the cheers of everyone. The fact that this was too-little, too-late was never brought up.

The fact that Parler is a victim of Twitter’s equivocation in benefitting from Trump’s social media addiction doesn’t seem to concern anyone. Parler didn’t permit Trump to organize and promote a rally at the Ellipse on January 6th, the very day Congress was to certify the Electoral College vote. Parler didn’t publish the president’s “love” tweets toward the rioters. But Twitter does plenty of publishing tweets honoring Antifa and BLM thugs. The newspeak is so thick, George Orwell may as well have written this narrative.

The continuing problem here is that two services set up as “right-wing alternatives” to left-wing social media have been shut down in the last four years. The latest one, Parler, though not my choice to use, and yes, inhabited by lots of trolls and idiots, was done as a corporate gang rape. The rapists aren’t even mildly aware of the effect of that.

No person with money is ever going to put a dime into creating a competitor for Twitter, or Facebook, if the premise for the service is getting a less left-leaning audience, or removing biased moderation. The reason Stripe, Scylla, Twilio, Slack, and others dumped Parler so fast is so not to anger their other customers, who depend on AWS, Apple, and Google for their business. Guilt by association is rampant in our America’s corporatist world.

It’s clear that only one world view is permitted in that world, and any other will be mercilessly raped if they get any traction. The next “thing” will be blamed on them. I wouldn’t be surprised if they go after Fox News next.

Again, I am not a fan of Parler, nor have I ever used it.

I believe Parler should have been suspended, briefly, and given the opportunity to actually work with its vendors, law enforcement, and its user community to fix some of the problems (though the problem is really the users, all of whom voluntarily left Twitter). Instead, it was brutally put out of business and forced to sue to try to recover.

If you can’t see how that will affect future innovation and investment, you’re not thinking hard enough.

Author’s note: I retitled this piece and reworded it to remove the word “rape.” I’ve been corrected that the term is loaded with unintended meaning. I apologize for using it.