Apple CEO Tim Cook defends Parler app suspension: ‘We don’t consider that free speech’

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By Todd Spangler | Variety

Apple chief Tim Cook said posts on right-wing social app Parler represented “incitement to violence” that warranted its removal from the App Store.

In an interview to air on Fox Broadcasting’s “Fox News Sunday” this Sunday (Jan. 17), Cook told anchor Chris Wallace that Apple “looked at the incitement to violence that was on there and… we don’t consider that free speech.”

Asked by Wallace whether Apple‘s booting of Parler, which had become popular among Trump loyalists as an alternative to Twitter and Facebook, would only serve to drive the app’s users “underground,” Cook responded, “Well, we’ve only suspended them, Chris. And so, if they get their moderation together, they would be back on there.”

For now, Parler’s return to any internet platform looks highly unlikely.

On Saturday, Apple kicked Parler off its app store, citing threats of violence and illegal activity on the app, coming after the deadly pro-Trump U.S. Capitol riot. “Parler has not taken adequate measures to address the proliferation of these threats to people’s safety,” Apple said on Jan. 9. Google had taken the same action to delist Parler’s Android app the day prior.

Then on Sunday, Amazon’s AWS division pulled Parler’s hosting services, with the e-commerce giant citing nearly 100 examples of violent threats on Parler.

Parler sued Amazon on Monday (complaint at this link), alleging Amazon breached its contract and violated the Sherman Antitrust Act by supposedly colluding with Twitter in getting the app shut down. Amazon, in a Jan. 12 court filing (at this link), said, “This case is not about suppressing speech or stifling viewpoints. It is not about a conspiracy to restrain trade,” “Instead, this case is about Parler’s demonstrated unwillingness and inability to remove from the servers of Amazon Web Services (‘AWS’) content that threatens the public safety, such as by inciting and planning the rape, torture and assassination of named public officials and private citizens.”

In an interview with Reuters this week, Parler CEO John Matze admitted that the app may never get back online, saying, “It’s hard to keep track of how many people are telling us that we can no longer do business with them.”

Before the app went dark, Matze, who once briefly worked for Amazon’s AWS division, complained in posts on the app that tech companies were conspiring to blacklist Parler and he lashed out at “politically motivated companies and those authoritarians who hate free speech.” Matze also claimed, “Most people on Parler are non-violent people who want to share their opinions, food pics and more.”

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A number of Parler users participated in the assault on the U.S. Capitol. After the app’s shutdown, one developer has launched an interactive online map using GPS metadata and about 50 videos that were posted on Parler during the attack, Motherboard reported.

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