Apple allowing Parler back into the App Store

by Ryan

Apple is allowing Parler, the social networking site popular with conservatives and members of the far right, back in the App Store, according to a letter the company sent to Republican lawmakers on Monday. 

In the letter to Congressman Ken Buck of Colorado and Senator Mike Lee of Utah, Apple said it “engaged in substantial conversations with Parler” since removing the platform from the App Store for violating compliance guidelines and lacking proper content moderation policies in January.

“As a result of those conversations, Parler has proposed updates to its app and the app’s content moderation practices,” Apple said in the letter, adding that it anticipates the updated app will become available as soon as Parler releases it.

Apple declined to comment for this story and Parler did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CBS News.

In the days leading up to the U.S. Capitol riot, supporters of former President Trump and members of far right groups like the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers used Parler to call for violence on January 6 and organized plans to infiltrate the Capitol. Five people died during or shortly after the riot and since then federal authorities have arrested more than 400 in connection with the events. 

After the riots, Google was the first to ban Parler from the Play Store. Apple quickly followed up with its own suspension. Amazon Web Services, which was hosting the platform on the Cloud, also pulled the plug. The combination of punches against Parler that essentially shutdown the site, led to outcry from Republicans that big tech companies are silencing conservative voices. 

At the time, Apple said the company supports different perspectives but violence and illegal activity will not be tolerated. Apple told Parler’s developers in January that it has not done enough to stop the “proliferation of dangerous and objectionable content” and “has not upheld its commitment to moderate and remove harmful or dangerous content encouraging violence and illegal activity.”

Apple had said that a review of posts on Parler found content “that encouraged violence, denigrated various ethnic groups, races and religions, glorified Nazism, and called for violence against specific people.” 

Democratic Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney of New York asked the FBI to investigate Parler’s role in the insurrection, including “as a potential facilitator of planning and incitement related to the violence.” In the January letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray, Maloney also accused Parler of being used as a “potential conduit for foreign governments who may be financing civil unrest in the United States.”

Last month, Parler said it notified the FBI that specific threats of violence at the Capitol were being planned on its platform. Parler said in the weeks leading up to January 6, it referred violent content from its platform to the FBI for investigation over 50 times.

“Far from being the far-right instigator and rouge company that Big Tech has portrayed Parler to be, the facts conclusively demonstrate that Parler has been a responsible and law-abiding company,” Parler’s lawyers said in a letter to the House Oversight and Reform Committee last month. 

The letter alleged big tech companies “colluded to destroy a small start-up company just as it began to pose a credible threat to their dominance on social media.”

In March, Buck and Lee sent letters to Google, Amazon and Apple asking the companies to outline the timing and the decisions that led to removing Parler from their services. 

Apple said it stands by its initial decision to suspend Parler and told Buck and Lee on Monday that it “did not coordinate or otherwise consult with Google or Amazon” when it booted Parler from the App Store in January. Amazon and Google also told the lawmakers last week that they did not coordinate with any other companies in their decision to suspend Parler from their services. 

A spokesperson for Google told CBS News that Parler has not yet submitted an updated version of their Android app to the Play Store. “Parler is welcome back in the Play store once it submits an app that complies with our policies,” a Google spokesperson said.

Buck said Apple’s decision to allow Parler back on the App Store is a “huge win for free speech.”

“I am proud of the work that Senator Lee and I were able to accomplish here,” Buck added. “It’s time for Amazon and Google to follow Apple’s lead and stop the censorship of Parler.”

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