Parler, the social networking site popular with conservatives and members of the far right, is relaunching on the App Store next week. Apple suspended the platform in January for failing to comply with its content moderation policies.
In a statement late Monday afternoon, Parler said it worked with Apple to implement several new changes to its app that will detect and ban posts not considered protected speech by the First Amendment. But Parler added that those posts will still be visible on the platform’s website and Android version of the app.
“Parler has and will always be a free and open forum where users could engage in the free exchange of ideas in the full spirit of the First Amendment,” Parler’s Interim CEO Mark Meckler said. “We have worked to put in place systems that will better detect unlawful speech and allow users to filter content undesirable to them, while maintaining our strict prohibition against content moderation based on viewpoint.”
The announcement of a relaunch comes after Apple sent a letter to Congressman Ken Buck of Colorado and Senator Mike Lee of Utah on Monday morning, informing them that it “engaged in substantial conversations with Parler” since removing the platform from the App Store for violating compliance guidelines. Last month, Buck and Lee asked Apple to explain its decision that led to Parler’s removal.
Apple declined to comment for this story but told the Republican lawmakers that Parler’s proposed new app will be approved for the App Store.
In the days leading up to the federal authorities have arrested more than 400 in connection with the events., supporters of former President Trump and members of far right groups like the Proud Boys and the 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
Parler said it is being unfairly scapegoated for the events of January 6 and did not make changes to its broad policies to create a platform without viewpoint censorship. Meckler said Parler users are “free of the viewpoint discrimination that they face on other platforms like Twitter and Facebook.”
After the riot, 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,. 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.”