Court Battles

Judge denies request for Amazon to immediately restore Parler

A federal judge on Thursday denied Parler's request for a court order that would have forced Amazon to immediately resume hosting the controversial social media platform following its suspension earlier this month.

In rebuffing Parler's request for a swift reversal of Amazon's ban, U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Rothstein said the social media site, which is especially popular among conservatives, had failed to persuade the court that it would ultimately win its lawsuit against Amazon.

"The likelihood of Parler prevailing on its claims is not a close call. Parler's allegations at this time are both inaccurate and unsupported, and are disputed by evidence submitted by" Amazon, wrote Rothstein, who sits on a Seattle-based district court and was appointed by former President Carter.

Amazon, for its part, maintains that its suspension of Parler was justified because the platform had repeatedly failed to screen out potentially incendiary content, including material that could incite violence, in violation of the companies' contract. 

Although the case has not been dismissed entirely, experts previously told The Hill that they found Parler's allegations that Amazon violated antitrust law and its contractual terms far-fetched, and the judge's 14-page order Thursday appeared to reinforce that view.

The order comes after Parler filed a Jan. 11 suit against Amazon's web-hosting arm for its suspension following the riot at the U.S. Capitol led by a pro-Trump mob. In light of the Capitol breach Jan. 6, Rothstein appeared especially unpersuaded by Parler's assertion that its immediate reinstatement on Amazon's platform would be in the public's interest.

"The Court explicitly rejects any suggestion that the balance of equities or the public interest favors obligating [Amazon] to host the kind of abusive, violent content at issue in this case, particularly in light of the recent riots at the U.S. Capitol," she wrote. "That event was a tragic reminder that inflammatory rhetoric can-more swiftly and easily than many of us would have hoped-turn a lawful protest into a violent insurrection." 

Amazon's decision to drop Parler left the platform dark until this past Sunday, when a nonfunctional homepage appeared back on the web along with a note from the company's CEO John Matze saying that a return was "inevitable."

Parler's domain is now registered with Epik, according to publicly available WHOIS information. Epik, which hosts the controversial social media platform Gab, has denied hosting Parler.

The platform's return to the web is being aided by Russian firm DDoS-Guard, which provides cybersecurity for other sites.

That connection has drawn scrutiny from House Oversight and Reform Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), who on Thursday asked the FBI to investigate the platform over its role in the deadly insurrection at the Capitol.

"Concerns about the company's connections to Russia have grown since the company re-emerged on a Russian hosting service, DDos-Guard, after being denied services by Amazon Web Services," she wrote in a letter to the agency, adding that Matze's wife has reported ties to the Russian government.

Parler, which explicitly pitches itself as a haven for free speech, was rife with discussions about invading the Capitol in the lead-up to the deadly riot on Jan. 6.

The platform saw a huge spike in users after that day and former President Trump's subsequent ban from Twitter and Facebook. Some users have since gravitated toward more fringe sites including Me.We and Telegram, where experts warn they could be exposed to more dangerous right-wing groups.

Updated at 4:08 p.m. 

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