Google suspends Parler citing need for moderation; Apple issues warning
In the wake of recent violence at the United States Capitol, Google Play Store has temporarily suspended Parler, a free speech-centric social media app. Apple has also issued a stern warning. Parler is a Twitter alternative preferred by the supporters of President Donald Trump, in addition to free speech advocates. Play Store stated the app is in dire need of "moderation of egregious content".
Parler had removed posts calling for violence and incitement
Parler is popular among users permabanned on Facebook and Twitter. The app gained traction in November, when Facebook and Twitter cracked down on election misinformation. Since Trump's Twitter ban, recent posts on the platform have called for the execution of VP Mike Pence and an armed response to Joe Biden's inauguration. It must be noted that Parler had cracked down on these posts.
Parler app temporarily suspended, but usable if already installed
Parler has been temporarily taken down from the Play Store. The app shall, however, still be usable by people who have installed it previously. Google warned the app to adhere to store guidelines in the light of the "ongoing and urgent public safety threat". The app is being removed until Parler implements the same mainstream standards of censorship that it has avoided thus far.
Separately, Apple issues Parler an ultimatum
Meanwhile, Apple has requested the app's developers to deploy an improved content moderation strategy within 24 hours, "to ensure uninterrupted availability of the app on the App Store". "Parler is not effectively moderating and removing content that encourages illegal activity," Apple said in their stern email and maintained that the developers are responsible for content posted by the app's users.
Parler CEO states the platform is being singled out
However, Parler CEO John Matze said "Apparently they believe Parler is responsible for ALL user generated content on Parler," and compared it to saying that Apple is responsible for illegal activities people do with their iPhones. In response to Google's suspension, although nothing was said, it's likely Parler has been left with no choice but to comply.
Censorship is a double-edged sword
Parler should undoubtedly curtail criminal activity on the platform. And there's evidence that the platform has been doing just that. Censoring dissenting voices is a double-edged sword, because this can easily be co-opted to stifle legitimate criticism. Like all good things, bad actors will attempt to co-opt free speech, but we can't throw away the proverbial baby with the bath water.