Yesterday, as we reported, Apple gave Parler an ultimatum: fix its moderation policies and remove objectionable content calling for the sort of violence seen in Washington D.C. on Wednesday or be removed from the App Store. Apple gave Parler 24 hours to comply, and that clock ran out at approximately 3 p.m. ET today, Saturday, January 9. Now, the company has taken action and users can no longer download the app on the App Store.
In a statement provided to the media, Apple makes its point of view clear:
We have always supported diverse points of view being represented on the App Store, but there is no place on our platform for threats of violence and illegal activity. Parler has not taken adequate measures to address the proliferation of these threats to people’s safety. We have suspended Parler from the App Store until they resolve these issues.
If users already have the app downloaded on a device, it will stay there and remain functional for the time being, though no future updates for Parler will be accepted. As Apple updates iOS, it's likely that at some point changes to the operating system will ultimately break the app's functionality — a situation that's played out before with other rejected or abandoned software on the platform.
It comes as no surprise that Parler has failed to comply. First, the task was Herculean. Parler's position that allowing calls to hang the vice president constitute defensible free speech means there's a giant backlog of hate-filled, conspiracy-laden content to moderate. Second, Parler's CEO has made it clear he thinks making it more difficult for hobbyist militia to organize themselves on his platform isn't something he or his company ought to police. Consequently, Apple has duly pulled the plug, sending this statement to the Parler team:
To the developers of the Parler app,
Thank you for your response regarding dangerous and harmful content on Parler. We have determined that the measures you describe are inadequate to address the proliferation of dangerous and objectionable content on your app.
Parler has not upheld its commitment to moderate and remove harmful or dangerous content encouraging violence and illegal activity, and is not in compliance with the App Store Review Guidelines.
In your response, you referenced that Parler has been taking this content “very seriously for weeks.” However, the processes Parler has put in place to moderate or prevent the spread of dangerous and illegal content have proved insufficient. Specifically, we have continued to find direct threats of violence and calls to incite lawless action in violation of Guideline 1.1 - Safety - Objectionable Content.
Your response also references a moderation plan “for the time being,” which does not meet the ongoing requirements in Guideline 1.2 - Safety - User Generated content. While there is no perfect system to prevent all dangerous or hateful user content, apps are required to have robust content moderation plans in place to proactively and effectively address these issues. A temporary “task force” is not a sufficient response given the widespread proliferation of harmful content.
For these reasons, your app will be removed from the App Store until we receive an update that is compliant with the App Store Review Guidelines and you have demonstrated your ability to effectively moderate and filter the dangerous and harmful content on your service.
App Review Board
Bye, Felicia — Parler yesterday received its marching orders from the Google Play store, too, but it can still be sideloaded on Android devices. Parler's Apple users aren't as fortunate. Apple's ironclad grip on its ecosystem means sideloading apps isn't an option (except on jailbroken devices) making it far more difficult to circumvent.
Nonetheless, it's hard to feel too sorry for Parler, or it's even more cretinous but less-well-funded compatriot, Gab. This week both services have enjoyed the sort of growth their founders have previously only been able to dream of, as Trumpists, QAnon enthusiasts, and other (mostly Caucasian) people, many of whom think the Third Reich had some good ideas but was misunderstood, flee from Twitter and Facebook in protest.
Earlier this week, Facebook suspended Donald "you're very special" Trump's accounts on its main service and Instagram until at least after the inauguration, while Twitter finally saw sense and removed Trump's account late on Friday. Both moves prompted the downtrodden, oppressed, chronically marginalized, MAGA cohort to scream censorship and flee for safer spaces like Parler and Gab.
As recently as Saturday afternoon, users on Parler were still making violent threats, including calling out members of the media as "soft targets."
Censorship is a big word — Trump's part-time footsoldiers and various Republican members of the House and Senate alike are calling Apple, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube's moves "censorship" and efforts to variously silence conservatives, trample the First Amendment, or other convenient, but ultimately hollow, excuses. The alternative they're asking for is even worse, and should be anathema to their positions.
All of the companies that have expelled Trump are private entities. They're fully within their rights to remove users who habitually violate their terms of service. In fact, they'd be remiss not to. Suggesting they should be compelled to carry calls to insurrection, death threats, racism, or any of the MAGA crowds' other interests sounds a lot like the sort of behavior you'd find in a totalitarian, communist state. You know, like China or North Korea.
Owned by the libs — Now, as much as Trump enjoys photo ops with his crush Kim Jong-un, you'd think real patriots would find telling private, American-owned businesses what they can and can't do would be unacceptable. One would expect Parler, in particular, to fight hard to defend Apple's right to decide who's allowed to frolic in its walled garden. It called the "free market." It even has "free" in the title, guys.
But then, Parler's never been the sharpest bayonet in the insurrection tool shed. It recently called for Section 230 to be repealed, a move that would all but doom it to endless, ruinous litigation, and its figurehead, CEO John Matze, went on Kara Swisher's Sway podcast the very day Trump egged-on rioters and shrugged when asked if his platform has a responsibility to try and keep murderous seditionists from coordinating their attacks on the country they profess to love.
With the official Trump merch store shuttered, too, Parler and Gab should be rejoicing. Opportunities to fill the vacuums created by Apple, Facebook, Shopify, and others are great business opportunities. Now all they have to do is build their own e-commerce platforms... and smartphones... oh, and while they're at it why not their own countries, legal systems, and economies, too?
After all, if they don't like the direction America is taking they can — as they've spent the last four years reminding the rest of us — always leave.