Apple to Reinstate Parler, the App at Center of Free-Speech Debate -- 4th Update
By Matt Grossman
Apple Inc. plans to make the social-media app Parler available
through its App Store again, the computer and smartphone company
said in a letter to lawmakers on Monday.
Apple removed Parler from its app store in January, citing
objectionable content. In a letter to Sen. M(ike Lee of Utah and
Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado, Apple said Monday that a revised version
of the Parler app with improved content moderation would be
approved for release to Apple users.
The letter from Apple was posted on Twitter by Mr. Buck, and it
was confirmed by Mr. Lee's office. Apple declined to comment.
Parler didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.
In the letter, Apple stood by its initial decision to remove
Parler from the app store, citing posts that denigrated races and
religions, promoted Nazi ideology and called for violence. Since
January, Apple has had "substantial conversations" with Parler, and
the app maker has proposed updates to its platform and its
content-moderation policies, Apple said.
"The App Review Team has informed Parler as of April 14, 2021
that its proposed updated app will be approved for reinstatement to
the App Store, " the letter said. The letter, which didn't explain
what changes Parler undertook, came in response to an inquiry that
Messrs. Lee and Buck sent to Apple last month.
Mr. Buck said on Twitter that the decision was a "huge win for
Parler LLC, which launched in 2018, landed in the middle of a
debate about internet companies and free speech as it grew in
popularity among supporters of then-President Donald Trump.
Parler is similar in format to Twitter Inc.'s platform. Its rise
coincided with more aggressive efforts on Twitter's part to flag or
remove content Twitter deemed objectionable or misleading. As of
February, Parler said it had more than 20 million users, according
to Mark Meckler, its interim chief executive.
Parler held itself out as a Twitter competitor that would take a
hands-off approach moderating content. That policy made the
platform an attractive online meeting place for the president's
supporters, who grew aggrieved at Twitter's approach to content
moderation as Mr. Trump disputed the results of the 2020 election
and as Twitter eventually suspended his account.
Mr. Trump doesn't have a Parler account, but conservative
commentators such as Sean Hannity and Mark Levin have an active
presence on the platform. Lawmakers who have given Mr. Trump strong
support, including Rep. Devin Nunes of California and Rep. Marjorie
Taylor Greene of Georgia, also have active accounts, as does Mr.
After the mob attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, Apple and other
big tech companies moved quickly to sever ties with Parler, which
had given some people involved in the attack a forum for discussing
their plans. Amazon.com Inc. suspended Parler from its web-hosting
services. Alphabet Inc., like Apple, also removed Parler from its
In response to criticism that it served as a staging ground for
the Capitol attack, Parler has said that it referred dozens of
examples of violent content to the FBI in the weeks before the mob
gathered in Washington.
Apple had previously denied an earlier attempt by Parler to seek
Evelyn Douek, a Harvard Law School lecturer who studies content
moderation, said that tech platforms, including Apple, need to
provide clearer guidelines as to what content is acceptable.
"If Apple wants to get into the game of playing gatekeeper on
the basis of content, it should be a lot more transparent about its
requirements," Ms. Douek said.
Parler has filed suit against Amazon for cutting off the
web-hosting services, saying it did so for anticompetitive reasons.
Parler in February gained limited functionality after securing
internet services hosted by SkySilk Inc., which operates out of a
Los Angeles-area data center. Users could access the service via a
web browser or if they had previously installed the app on their
It remains off the Google Play store, and a Parler spokesman
previously said that it wasn't actively trying to restore the app
to the store since it can be accessed other ways. Parler provides
instructions on its website for users to install the app onto
Android devices without going through the official app store.
A Google spokesman said that Parler could be available in the
Google Play store once it submits an app that complies with its
Paul Ziobro contributed to this article.
Write to Matt Grossman at email@example.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
April 19, 2021 16:38 ET (20:38 GMT)
Copyright (c) 2021 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.