After Twitter banned Donald Trump from their platform, it seemed like a good day for Parler. The app has recently seen growth from conservative users. Many have called the site a dangerous echo chamber. Trump claimed he would be posting on Parler moving forward. Though officials have said he has yet to create an actual account, many conservatives pledged to follow him to the platform. Then, things took a turn for the app. It was banned from the Google Play store and then the Apple store. Soon, the app that used real ID was hacked. Now, Amazon has denied the app the right to be hosted on their servers any longer. What does this mean for Parler? Right now, it means it’s offline, and the site’s CEO has said it “will likely be down longer than expected”.
This news is a lot to catch up with if you haven’t been following the events around Parler in recent days. Which would be understandable, as it gets lost in the news surrounding the Capitol Riots. As for how the site has gone offline, this particular event surrounds happenings at Amazon. The company has a service called Amazon Web Services (AWS). They provide cloud-based hosting services, particularly for large websites. Parler used AWS to run their app/website.
Following the Capitol Riot, Amazon corporate employees called on the company to cut ties with Parler. They tweeted, “We cannot be complicit in more bloodshed and violent attacks on our democracy.” On Saturday, Amazon informed Parler of their decision. The site went offline as of Sunday at 11:59 p.m. PST. It is unclear when Parler may be online again. The CEO reported that, “most people with enough servers to host us have shut their doors to us.”
While Parler is currently down and it is unclear on when the site will be back up, hackers have promised they downloaded everything first. The social media app used real ID to verify accounts as being owned by unique individuals. While the company said they didn’t share this personal information, their policies did make clear that they kept “a record of this data encrypted in order to validate that there are no duplicate verifications within the system”. The data saved by the hackers is still being processed. It is unknown if the identification information was gained in the mass of data collection before Parler went offline.
The downloaded information does seem to include location-based data on Parler users who were in DC for the riot. The hackers claim they downloaded posts that were deleted after the riots. Those posts weren’t erased from the server, only marked as unviewable. When Amazon announced they would be removing Parler from their servers, the hackers got to work and managed to save 70TB of data from the platform.
Amazon, Google, and Apple all marked the violent content as a reason for their decision against Parler. It’s hard to imagine with such large companies marking the platform as a legal risk that many other tech companies will want to take Parler on. However, its users are already finding new places online to gather. The social network Gab has reported gains of 600k new users so far.