Google has pulled ‘free speech’ social media platform Parler from its Play Store over its failure to remove “egregious content”.
Popular with supporters of Donald Trump and known for attracting banned Twitter users such as Katie Hopkins, Parler has also been given a 24-hour warning from Apple who have urged the team behind the platform to submit a detailed moderation plan after it emerged that some participants used the service to coordinate Wednesday’s siege of the US Capitol building.
It comes as Twitter and Facebook crackdown on users flouting their policies, most notably Donald Trump himself.
After years of criticism for his near-constant use of the platform, the outgoing president was permanently banned from Twitter on Friday night and banned indefinitely from Facebook by CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday.
Alphabet Inc’s Google on Friday suspended the Parler social networking service from its app store, citing posts inciting violence and, like Apple, demanded “robust” content moderation from the app.
The actions by the two Silicon Valley companies mean that the network seen as a haven for people expelled from Twitter could become unavailable for new downloads on the world’s main mobile phone app stores within a day. It would still be available in mobile browsers.
Right-wing social media users in the United States have flocked to Parler, messaging app Telegram and hands-off social site Gab, citing a so-called attack on free speech on more mainstream sites – particularly after Trump received his ban.
In suspending the service, Google, whose software powers Android phones, cited its policy against apps that promote violence and gave recent examples from Parler, including a Friday post that began “How do we take back our country? About 20 or so coordinated hits” and another promoting a “Million Militia March” on Washington.
Parler chief executive John Matze hit back at the threatened suspension from Apple, saying the tech giant was applying standards to Parler that it did not apply to itself.
In a statement, Google said that “for us to distribute an app through Google Play, we do require that apps implement robust moderation for egregious content. In light of this ongoing and urgent public safety threat, we are suspending the app’s listings from the Play Store until it addresses these issues.”
In a letter from Apple’s App Store review team to Parler seen by Reuters, Apple cited participants of the mob storming the USS Capitol building on Wednesday.
“Content that threatens the well-being of others or is intended to incite violence or other lawless acts has never been acceptable on the App Store,” Apple said in the letter.
Apple gave Parler 24 hours to “remove all objectionable content from your app... as well as any content referring to harm to people or attacks on government facilities now or at any future date.” The company also demanded that Parler submit a written plan “to moderate and filter this content” from the app.
Apple declined to comment.
Matze,who describes himself as libertarian, founded Parler in 2018 as a “free-speech driven” alternative to mainstream platforms, but began courting right-leaning users as prominent supporters of Trump moved there.
Those who have joined include commentator Candace Owens, Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani, and right-wing activist Laura Loomer, who handcuffed herself to the door of Twitter’s New York office in November 2018 to protest a ban on her by the site. In November, conservative activist Rebekah Mercer confirmed that the she and her family, which includes her father and hedge-fund investor Robert Mercer, have provided funding to Parler.
“Apparently they believe Parler is responsible for ALL user generated content on Parler,” Matze said. “Therefor (sic) by the same logic, Apple must be responsible for ALL actions taken by their phones. Every car bomb, every illegal cell phone conversation, every illegal crime committed on an iPhone, Apple must also be responsible for,” he wrote. “Standards not applied to Twitter, Facebook or even Apple themselves, apply to Parler.”