US District Court Judge Barbara Jacobs Rothstein has denied an injunction by Parler demanding that Amazon Web Services reinstate the controversial social media platform, which was used by many of former President Donald Trump supporters to help orchestrate the assault on 6 January on the U.S. Capitol.
An Order yesterday (21 January) – which does not conclude the wider lawsuit by Parler – concludes:
“The Court explicitly rejects any suggestion that the balance of equities or the public interest favors obligating AWS to host the kind of abusive, violent content at issue in this case, particularly in light of the recent riots at the U.S. Capitol. That event was a tragic reminder that inflammatory rhetoric can—more swiftly and easily than many of us would have hoped—turn a lawful protest into a violent insurrection.
“The Court rejects any suggestion that the public interest favors requiring AWS to host the incendiary speech that the record shows some of Parler’s users have engaged in. At this stage, on the showing made thus far, neither the public interest nor the balance of equities favors granting an injunction in this case.”
Parler had argued that AWS was in breach of contract, and that the threat of being driven out of business is sufficient to establish irreparable harm and threatened it with ‘extinction.’ The judge dismissed that it had sufficiently proved either of these grounds.
The Order will no doubt spark further conversations about the power that large tech companies wield and their ability to curtail freedom of speech. However, in an article by the Verge on 11 January, Russell Brandom makes the interesting observation: “If you want to argue that platforms are overreacting, then it matters what they’re reacting to. The moderation actions of the past week came in response to an immediate deadly attack on the seat of government and an ongoing threat of seditious violence. You can argue that the moderation was poorly targeted or insufficiently explained, but it was entirely proportional to the scale of the threat.”
You can read yesterday’s court order in full here: https://beta.documentcloud.org/documents/20461466-rothstein_order