Sen. Lee, Rep. Buck question Apple’s, Google’s, and Amazon’s actions against Parler

U.S. Senator Mike Lee of Utah and Colorado Congressman Ken Buck sent a joint letter to the CEOs of Apple, Google, and Amazon to question the companies’ actions in removing the social network Parler from their app stores and web hosting services earlier this year.

Parler

David Wells for Associated Press:

According to the letter by Sen. Lee and Rep. Buck, the actions by the three companies occurred in a matter of three days, shielding the service from 15 million users.

“The timing of steps taken against the Parler social network by your companies and that the actions seem to lack any of the procedural fairness typically afforded in the case of an alleged breach of contract create the appearance of close coordination,” the letter states. “These actions were against a company that is not alleged to have violated any law. In fact, information provided by Parler to the House Oversight Committee revealed that Parler was assisting law enforcement even in advance of January 6th.”

MacDailyNews Note: The joint letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook, Google CEO Sundar Pichai, And Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos from Senator Lee and Congressman Buck, verbatim:

Dear Mr. Pichai, Mr. Cook, and Mr. Bezos:

January 8, 2021 marked the start of a series of actions against one small business by three of the largest technology companies in the world.

As detailed in the timeline below, the timing of steps taken against the Parler social network by your companies and that the actions seem to lack any of the procedural fairness typically afforded in the case of an alleged breach of contract create the appearance of close coordination.

According to public sources:
• On January 8, 2021 Apple sent Parler notice of expulsion from the App Store. Parler was provided only 24 hours to remediate. Google sent Parler notice of expulsion from the Play Store, reportedly within hours of Apple’s notice. Parler was not provided a remediation option. Later in the day, Google removed Parler from the Play Store.
• On January 9, 2021 Apple removed Parler from the App Store. Amazon sent Parler a notice of suspension of their cloud services. No remediation option was provided.
• On January 10, 2021 Amazon suspended service to Parler.

In just three days, Apple and Google effectively cut off Parler’s primary distribution channel, and Amazon cut off Parler’s access to critical computing services, leaving the company completely unable to serve its 15 million users. These actions were against a company that is not alleged to have violated any law. In fact, information provided by Parler to the House Oversight Committee revealed that Parler was assisting law enforcement even in advance of January 6th.

Please provide written answers and any related documentation, including e-mail and text messages, to the following inquiries no later than April 15, 2021:

Content Policy:

  1. Please provide the specific provisions of your policies resulting, where applicable, in suspension or expulsion from distribution channels (Apple App Store and Google Play Store) or termination of cloud service.
  2. Provide a complete history of all changes to policies that govern requirements for content moderation, including changes to definitions of what is acceptable and prohibited speech or conduct.

Review Process:

  1. How often are businesses reviewed for compliance with your terms? Is this an ongoing process?
  2. How many businesses were reviewed in 2020? Of the businesses reviewed in 2020, how many were reviewed because of content moderation practices?
  3. How many were suspended?
  4. How many were terminated?
  5. What triggers the review process? Are outside inputs such as news reports used in
    decision making?
  6. Who is involved during the review process? Is the process independent, or are all
    individuals participating in the review employees of the company?
  7. Who makes the final decision to initiate a review process?
  8. Detail the process used during a review to evaluate the target of a review, including any
    procedures to ensure fair treatment.
  9. Are there different processes for companies that have been accused of violating laws (i.e.
    money laundering, child trafficking) vs. matters related to content moderation?
  10. Are automated review processes used, and if so, who sets the criteria used by the
    algorithm to determine whether a business should be reviewed? If automated review processes are used, please describe how the algorithm functions and the data sources used by the algorithm.

Notice, Cure, Termination, and Appeal Process:

  1. Are businesses notified before a review process is initiated?
  2. If a review process identifies potential non-compliance, are businesses notified, or is the
    decision to terminate contracts and/or agreements automatic?
  3. Does any notification of non-compliance also include a period of time for remediation to
    avoid suspension or termination?
  4. Is there an appeal process for businesses notified of potential non-compliance? If yes,
    please describe.
  5. Is there an appeal process for businesses notified of suspension? If yes, please describe.
  6. Is there an appeal process for businesses notified of termination? If yes, please describe.
  7. Who makes the final decision on appeals? Is the appeal review independent? Are
    outside experts consulted, or are all of the individuals involved employees of the company?
  8. List all businesses terminated/removed since 2017 as a result of content moderation policy violations, the date of their first notice and final termination/removal. How many of these businesses were in social media?

Parler

  1. Was Parler given notice of the potential violation? Was the same amount of time offered to Parler to cure any potential policy violations as is given to other potential violators?
  2. Who determined the amount of time, if any, provided for Parler to take remediation measures?
  3. What was the basis for suspension or removal given to Parler in the initial notice?
  4. Who at your respective companies made the final decision to suspend or terminate
    Parler’s contracts and agreements?
  5. Was the final decision made outside the standard process by company leadership? If so,
    who made the decision?
  6. Did the final decision include input from the company’s political or media relations
    advisors, in house or external? If so, who?
  7. Was anyone outside the company consulted about the decision before it was made?
  8. Was anyone outside the company informed of the decision before it was made public?
  9. Was anyone in the media provided with embargoed notice of the termination?

Coordination of Action:

  1. Apple, Google and Amazon each took actions related to Parler within hours and days of each other. Were these actions taken independent of each other?
  2. Were there any contacts between any of your companies prior to the action against Parler? If so, with whom?
  3. Was notice of pending action against Parler shared among your companies?
  4. Was there any effort to sequence public announcements about your action against Parler?

Sincerely,

Mike Lee
Ranking Member
Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust & Consumer Rights

Ken Buck
Ranking Member
House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial & Administrative Law

MacDailyNews Take: Again, Apple’s stated reasoning for pulling Parler is fine, if applied uniformly.

But, Twitter, Facebook, etc. have never been suspended from Apple’s App Store. Why?

Why are the same sort of comments okay to exist on some services, but considered a ban-able offense – to the tune of the entire app – on others? What’s the difference? What does it reveal about those at Apple who are ultimately making the decisions when it’s ban-able “hate speech” on one platform, but left to fester for 6.5 years (and counting) on others?

Anyone who claims that Twitter, Facebook, etc. have robust content moderation in place that effectively removes harmful or dangerous content that encourages violence and illegal activity is either ignorant or lying.

31 Comments

    1. As long as there are plenty of voting booths open in ALL counties and it should NOT be an offense to offer food or water to those spending hours standing in line waiting. Mail in voting should be allowed for those who are unable to reach voting booths during voting hours or alternatively work places could allow time off to vote.

      1. The Georgia law has not “criminalized giving people bottles of water.” It pertains to political organizations.

        Here is what that section of the law says:

        “(a) No person shall solicit votes in any manner or by any means or method, nor shall any

        person distribute or display any campaign material, nor shall any person give, offer to give,

        or participate in the giving of any money or gifts, including, but not limited to, food and

        drink, to an elector, nor shall any person solicit signatures for any petition, nor shall any

        person, other than election officials discharging their duties, establish or set up any tables

        or booths on any day in which ballots are being cast

        (1) Within 150 feet of the outer edge of any building within which a polling place is established;

        (2) Within any polling place; or

        (3) Within 25 feet of any voter standing in line to vote at any polling place.”

        The bill also states that poll workers can make available “self-service water from an unattended receptacle to an elector waiting in line to vote.”

        1. READ the exact wording again. Absolutely nowhere does it say that providing things to voters is ONLY forbidden for political organizations. That’s YOUR INTERPRETATION of the wording.

          As you quoted it states, “… nor shall any person give, offer to give, or participate in the giving of any money or gifts, including, but not limited to, food and
          drink, to an elector…” Note that is explicitly says “any person”. It does NOT state “any political organization”. “[A]ny person” will, by law enforcement, be read explicitly per the exact wording to mean “any person”. Period.

          IF I bring a hamburger and drink to a neighbor who has been standing in line for a couple hours, I am explicitly violating the law as written.

          This is not a Democrat thing. It is not a Republican thing. It is a stupid thing. Period.

          1. “IF I bring a hamburger and drink to a neighbor who has been standing in line for a couple hours, I am explicitly violating the law as written.”

            Totally false, go back and read the law. Possibly you have not, suspect only listening to CNN.

            The law as I have read near a polling place a representative of say Biden’s team, with a Biden shirt, cannot give you free anything in line. Which makes sense. Relatives and friends NOT representing a political party at the polls can deliver whatever nourishment you need all day long…

            1. So, family members and friends are excluded from the definition of “any person”? Where did you get that from? Not from the law as quoted here. If the law was quoted correctly, then I’d interpret “any person” to mean any person. Then again, I don’t understand Trumpian logic.

          2. You are an idiot. The law says… “other than election officials discharging their duties”. You’re interpreting with an agenda. The lawmakers in GA have made it very clear what the intent and interpretation of the law should be.

            1. Exactly. Their very clear intent is that nobody can provide food and water except an election official. If they are short handed and cannot spare somebody to hand out water, the people in line are out of luck. They cannot call a friend or family member to bring them food or water while they are waiting in line, potentially for hours. For some “inexplicable” reason, those lines are generally much longer in poor neighborhoods.

    1. Big Tech is obviously doing that with impunity and its only going to get worse under the Cancel Culture Biden administration. Thank God courageous Senators and Congressional Committees are not letting this pass and ratcheting up the pressure to investigate the censorship policies of Big Tech directly aimed at SILENCING CONSERVATIVES or anyone that offends the WOKE Leftist List of sacrosanct causes. Former President Trump being Number One. That used to be the job of the Big Media.

      As many posters, particularly excellent take from MDN above, have pointed out the double standard hypocrisy of Big Tech that to this day they collectively cannot explain why they allow leftist and anarchist hate speech to flourish, while censoring speech of any kind of speech from the right. Answer: They don’t have to. Because of unlimited legal cover and protections provided to no other companies courtesy of Section 230 and the unevenly applied “Terms of Service.” Just dance around and give the typical political non-answer answer, the well know deflection tactic.

      Let’s not forget the absolute joke of the BIASED Big Media looking the other way, not investigating and simply not reporting on anything related and substantial. In a few news cycles they allow it to simply die along with all the Leftist Comrades in the Press lockstep collusion — the REAL COLLUSION the last four years! Their press credentials should be revoked for dereliction of duty starting with the NYT, Wash Post and CNN and work from there.

      Let’s hope that Section 230 is eliminated and finally level the playing field to guarantee the same fair treatment afforded ALL other U.S. companies. This sacred cow law written at the near birth of the internet when it took off in the 1990s is simply, OUTDATED. As we have seen with Parler, Trump, Conservative media and average Trump voters on their Facebook pages, it legally allows Big Tech unfair advantages and protections to act as publishers censoring and refusing to publish views and opinions that Leftist Big Tech abhors. Fine, you work as publishers you should have ZERO immunity from lawsuits REMOVED the same as Big Media. Nicholas Sandmann the suing media Gold Star example. They will finally have to get their spoiled act together and be liable as anyone else for their actions!

      Congress — BRING…IT…ON!…

      1. As Ronald Reagan predicted, “They’re from the Government and they’re going to help you.” Isn’t it wonderful that GeoB and Winston Smith love Big Brother. The particular irony is that they twist the notion of freedom to justify what the First Amendment quite specifically prohibits. Then again, in their world, “Freedom is Slavery.”

        1. No contortionist, as I have written over and over and over. Repeal Section 230 Big Tech will have to compete on a LEVEL BUSINESS PLAYING FIELD like every other business. Get that through your thick skull!…

  1. I very much look forward to the day when Apple is once again run by a real man who has convictions that don’t stop at the border of China (remember, it’s okay for China to have borders, but not the U.S.) – and have the balls to do what’s right even when it could cost him some of his dearly beloved cash.

    Tim Cook is a hypocrite and a flaming disappointment.

    1. It’s funny how the very same people who post reams of comments on how Apple should stand up to the Chinese government when it imposes controls on the media are thrilled at efforts to have the American government do the same thing. It should be the other way around, since we have a First Amendment to forbid government abridgment of free speech and publishing, while the People’s Republic can legally do whatever it pleases.

      1. BUNK!

        The Second Amendment reads:

        “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

        Shall not be infringed, has been infringed time and time again. How many gun control laws have been brought up, backed and passed by this nation’s government.

        If it is possible to have a Constitutional Right, such as the Second Amendment that is constantly “modified” from the nation’s original Founding Father’s intent, then surely this nation’s government can modify the First Amendment regulating the biases and in some cases downright lies of the media in Print, Television, and Big Tech.

        The First Amendment reads:

        Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

        Over the years, all but freedom of the press in the First Amendment has been “modified” by the government in order to control.

        If it makes you feel any better, just think of all the stories that were presented to the nation by the news media, that were untrue, incomplete, biased, creating a mess and had to be corrected because the media jumped the gun by not having all the facts, failed to tell everything they knew and relied on unreliable sources, just think of these stories as “mass shootings” in need of government control!

          1. Fair level playing field as determined by who? Do you want the Government to reinstitute a Fairness Doctrine that requires giving equal time to all sides of a controversial issue? So, three column inches on mosquito nets to control malaria must require three inches on controlling miasmas and three on controlling witchcraft. Three inches on blood transfusions requires three inches from the Jehovah’s Witnesses and another three from the Christian Scientists. Every story about the Pope requires an equal story about the High Priest of Voodoo.

            Every publication makes editorial decisions. Some of them are faulty, but at least the various errors are competing in an open marketplace of ideas. If the Government could its notion of “fairness” there would be no room for a narrative that questioned the Party Line.

            1. You really have no credibility here.

              Any Conservative knows how empty your arguments are and most Liberals will just go along with anything AS LONG AS CONSERVATIVES ARE AGAINST IT.

              That is their only litmus test.

              A fair level field in voting means all votes will be cast fairly. You DON’T change voting rules for an entire country just because you believe Blacks are too substandard and can’t follow the same rules.

              The Fairness Doctrine you speak of was (as many laws written) erroneously named.

              Fairness is NOT determined by content but availability. If a radio or tv show is popular enough to draw crowds then it is fair for it to be aired.
              Your logic REQUIRED it be aired whether people wanted or hear it or not. In effect what this did was stifle Conservative views.

              Odd thing is if they bring it back, 90% of the talk and news shows would have to change their Liberal bias.

              Nice way to confuse the issues.
              As usual we see through it.

            2. If I scan my radio across the AM and FM bands right now, I will find at least fifteen conservative programs and not one that focuses on liberal politics. My cable TV has multiple conservative channels. A web search for articles, opinion pieces, and podcasts on any political controversy will find at least as many conservative viewpoints as liberal. A browse through the magazine rack at Barnes and Noble reveals plenty of conservative publications. The daily circulation of The Wall Street Journal places it #2 in the US, close behind USA Today. Republicans control 27 out of 50 governorships and 61 legislative chambers versus 37 for the Democrats (with one split), and they regularly use those bully pulpits.

              To claim that conservative viewpoints are being repressed is a paranoid delusion. While it may be true that liberal-leading media do not give equal time to conservatives, conservative-leaning media do the same. They are allowed to reflect their own viewpoints without government interference if the First Amendment means anything at all. No REAL conservative would dream of allowing the Government power to regulate public discourse.

            3. Again, you distort facts.
              Yes, talk radio is more popular with Conservatives and they support it through large audiences.

              There are nowhere near as many Conservative TV news outlets.

              There are nowhere near as many Conservative newspapers.

              And because of these FACTS those particular outlets of Conservative news and opinion (FOXNews and WSJ) have higher numbers because there are so many Liberal outlets splitting the numbers.

              Get real.

          1. Don’t go there, AppleCynic! The interpretation of the Second Amendment has become a religious issue for many folks. You might as well attack their church or their mother as point out that a 5-4 decision of the Supreme Court as recently as 2008 completely changed US law on the subject.

  2. “Parler revealed that it had “proactively developed an open line of communication with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the fall of 2020 and referred violent content and incitement from Parler’s platform over 50 times before January 6th. Parler also warned the FBI about specific threats of violence being planned for the events at the Capitol on January 6th.””

    https://www.zerohedge.com/technology/parler-just-flipped-big-techs-jan-6th-conspiracy-theory-its-head

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