By Sarah E. Needleman 

Parler has lost an early bid to force Inc. to resume providing web-hosting services for the social network.

U.S. District Judge Barbara Rothstein denied Parler's motion for a preliminary injunction Thursday, writing in a 14-page ruling that the company didn't meet the threshold for granting such a request. However the judge ruled that the court wasn't yet dismissing Parler's underlying claims against Amazon.

Parler sued Amazon on Jan. 11, claiming the tech giant kicked the social network off its servers for political and anticompetitive reasons.

Amazon denied those claims, saying it terminated the relationship because it found several instances of violent content on Parler in violation of its terms of service. One example Amazon identified from a post in early December said: "My wishes for a racewar have never been higher. I find myself thinking about killing n -- s and jews more and more often."

Judge Rothstein wrote Parler offered "faint and factually inaccurate speculation" to support its claim that Amazon violated federal antitrust law. The judge also wrote that Amazon has no obligation to host violent content, particularly in light of the U.S. Capitol riot earlier this month.

"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," the judge wrote. "The Court rejects any suggestion that the public interest favors requiring [Amazon Web Services] to host the incendiary speech that the record shows some of Parler's users have engaged in."

Parler Chief Executive John Matze couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

An Amazon representative said in a statement that the company welcomed the court's "careful" ruling. "This was not a case about free speech," the statement said. "It was about a customer that consistently violated our terms of service by allowing content to be published on their website that actively encouraged violence."

Parler launched in 2018 and promoted itself as a free-speech hub with looser content-moderation rules than larger platforms such as Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc. The social network had a steep surge in interest around last year's presidential election, especially among conservatives who expressed discontent with how other services policed speech.

But Parler came under significant scrutiny in the wake of the Capitol riot, as it had served as a hub for people alleged to have organized, participated in or celebrated the attack, as well as a forum for some who had posted about future violent actions around the inauguration. Parler executives have said they had been bolstering content-moderation efforts in recent months and acknowledged delays in addressing instances of threats on the platform prior to the Capitol riot.

Amazon was one of several vendors that severed ties with Parler earlier this month over the social network's content-moderation rules, though its actions were the most damaging because it caused the company's website and apps to go dark.

On Thursday, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D., N.Y.), chairwoman of the House Oversight Committee, sent a letter to the Federal Bureau of Investigation requesting an investigation into the role Parler played in the attack. Ms. Maloney also asked the agency to review Parler's financing.

Parler is backed by investors such as Republican donor Rebekah Mercer, the daughter of hedge-fund investor Robert Mercer, and conservative talk-show host Dan Bongino. The Mercers have previously financed a number of conservative causes.

To resume operations, Parler has so far turned to internet-services provider Epik Inc. to serve as its web-domain registrar after DreamHost LLC dropped it as a customer.

Parler's website was updated late last week with a post from Mr. Matze, which was followed by a few more from prominent conservatives such as Fox News host Sean Hannity. A message entitled "Technical Difficulties" tells visitors that Parler plans to welcome users back soon.

However, tech-industry officials say Parler would need to turn to a cloud-services host similar to Amazon in order to support the number of users the social network had. Company officials have said Parler had as many as 15 million users. Twitter reported last fall it had 187 million daily users, while Facebook said it had 1.82 billion daily users.

Write to Sarah E. Needleman at


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 21, 2021 18:23 ET (23:23 GMT)

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