Culture

Apple is letting Parler back on the App Store

But now that it's been somewhat declawed, will conservatives and conspiracy theorists still use it?

ILLUSTRATION - 10 January 2021, Berlin: On a mobile phone, the website of the social media platform Parler is displayed. The platform's logo is on a screen in the background. The social media platform Parler, popular with supporters of US President-elect Donald Trump, could be offline from Sunday night, according to media reports. Previously, internet companies Google and Apple had already banned Parler from their app stores until further notice. Photo: Christophe Gateau/dpa (Photo by Christophe Gateau/picture alliance via Getty Images)
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Apple says it’ll allow the Parler app to return to the App Store now that it’s met the company’s requirements for limiting content that seeks to incite violence. Parler has been unavailable for download on the App Store since Apple banned the alt social network on January 9.

Apple made the decision after warning Parler that its moderation policies, especially in removing calls for violence, were not strong enough. Amazon Web Services soon followed suit, effectively kicking Parler off the internet completely. Parler initially sued Amazon, but a judge ruled against it, and the company eventually abandoned the effort entirely.

A sordid and messy tale — Parler’s fortunes took a turn for the worse following the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol, and a disastrous interview the company’s then CEO John Matze gave Kara Swisher on her podcast Sway where he argued the service wasn’t responsible for any of the violence despite being one of the key services rioters used to organize. As platforms started severing ties with Parler and shutting it down, Matze tried to backtrack, but was nonetheless removed as CEO shortly thereafter (a move he’s now suing over).

The service partially relaunched on the web in February with a new, interim CEO named Mark Meckler, but still without a presence in the App Store or Google’s Play Store. By March, Parler was still rife with hate speech and calls to violence, so Apple continued to bar it from the App Store.

What’s changed? — Now Apple seems to think Parler has made significant strides in better moderating its unruly platform. Timothy Powderly, Apple’s senior director of government affairs, sent a long letter to Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colorado) responding to their inquiries about why Parler had been removed in the first place.

Apple says that Parler has “proposed updates to its app and the app’s content moderation practices” which are enough for it to be reinstated in the App Store whenever it’s ready.

The question remains, though, without the unfettered “free speech” Parler positioned itself as the protector of, will its former users return, or will they take their rage, racism, and conspiracy theories elsewhere?