By Keach Hagey 

Social-media platform Parler has sued Amazon.com Inc. after the tech giant abruptly ended web-hosting services to the company, effectively halting its operation.

In a complaint filed Monday in Seattle federal court, Parler alleged that Amazon Web Services kicked the company off its cloud servers for political and anti-competitive reasons. The conservative social network founded in 2018 exploded in popularity among supporters of President Trump after the November U.S. election.

"AWS's decision to effectively terminate Parler's account is apparently motivated by political animus. It is also apparently designed to reduce competition in the microblogging services market to the benefit of Twitter," according to the complaint, which also accused Amazon of breaching a contract between the parties.

Amazon said Saturday that it would cut off Parler because it wasn't confident in its ability to sufficiently police content on its platform that incites violence. The company said while it would no longer provide web services to Parler after Sunday at 11:59 p.m. Pacific time, it would preserve the platform's data and help it migrate to different servers.

In its complaint, Parler also accused Amazon of applying a double standard than with other platforms, noting that Twitter had recently signed a multi-year web-hosting deal with the company.

Amazon didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

The situation with Parler shows the growing breadth and effect of efforts by big technology companies to restrict content they label as dangerous after last week's mob attack on the U.S. Capitol. Amazon had said in a letter to Parler over the weekend that it had seen a steady increase in violent content on the site and said Parler's efforts to remove it were inadequate.

Parler's effective disappearance came shortly after Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc.'s Google removed the Parler app for mobile devices from their app stores -- making it difficult for new users to download -- without shutting down the service. Amazon's move had a far more severe impact because it provides the back-end servers that host Parler's website and databases, as it does for a large array of other prominent companies.

"As more of a libertarian, more of a minimal government type of person, I hate relying on the legal system," Parler Chief Executive John Matze told The Wall Street Journal Sunday in an interview. "I know we have to."

Mr. Matze said in a Parler post on Saturday that it was possible the service would be unavailable for as long as a week while it found new hosting services.

Parler executives have previously told the Journal that the company has been working to bolster its content-moderation efforts. In recent days, they said, Parler doubled its team of volunteer moderators -- called "jurors" -- to more than a thousand and instructed them to search popular hashtags for incitement, a more proactive approach than what was used previously. The company also instructed its jurors to hunt down any content suggesting violence within the comment sections of its more highly trafficked sections, and planned to hire employees to bolster these efforts, they said.

But tech companies told Parler they believed those efforts were insufficient.

Jeff Horwitz and Sam Schechner contributed to this article.

Write to Keach Hagey at keach.hagey@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 11, 2021 14:15 ET (19:15 GMT)

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