Back when I was in Elementary school many, many years ago, the worst insult one child could throw at another on the playground was the term “Indian giver.” It was a serious accusation, not a term quickly or commonly bandied about like “Racist” and Nazi” are today. It was a literal “top of the mountain” insult and if proven, stuck with you for a while. This meant the other kid promised you something but then broke the promise. It was a real Scarlet Letter for an eight-year-old.
In case you missed it, on January 8th, Twitter banned Trump from their platform. This resulted in a lot of people “jumping ship” to Parler, where you weren’t banned merely for having a different opinion than the corporate staff. As a result, on January 9th, Parler became the most downloaded app in both the Apple’s AppStore and GooglePlay.
Then, within a few hours, both Apple and Google banned that app from their respective stores. At 11:59pm on January 10th, Amazon Web Services (AWS) stopped hosting the website and service entirely.
Parler has been down hard ever since. There’s a “placeholder” website back on the web to show you it’s there but there’s no user functionality for it. The bad news is the website code was specifically designed for AWS and is not easily copied over to another hosting service.
Now that I’ve set the table, let’s get into the meat of things.
First, in discussions I’ve had on this, my argument of “businesses can refuse service” (e.g., Masterpiece Cake Shop) was tossed in my face. To refresh you there, the man who owned MCS refused to make a custom cake for a same-sex couple. They were free to buy a standard cake, but the owner would not, under his personal religious morals, use his skills for them. Just to show he doesn’t selectively apply it, he also won’t do stuff like Halloween cakes either. I firmly believe MCS had the option to refuse to serve this couple’s request. He offered his cakes without his talents and referred them to other bakeries who would have been happy to serve them with customized cakes.
But there’s a big difference between MCS and AWS: a contract. AWS was under contract with Parler to provide web services.
The important parts are:
1. If AWS tells Parler that there’s “offensive content” that AWS doesn’t like on Parler, which started a 30-day clock for Parler to remove the stipulated content. The contract can be cancelled if the contested content is not modified or removed after 30 days.
2. If AWS cancels the contract for whatever reason, Parler has 30 days from that moment to move their website to another hosting service.
AWS notified Parler on January 8th and 9th of “offensive content violations,” on Parler. These were deleted within hours of Parler receiving the notification. By doing so, Parler held up its’ end of the contract. By removing the “bad” content, this act in contract terms “healed” the issue. So AWS had no viable complaints against Parler.
With no active issues, let alone any that had gone unresolved for 30 days, AWS still gave Parler only a thirty hour (not day) notice to get off AWS.
So this is where I start calling AWS an “Indian giver” because AWS promised a 30 day notice if they were going to cancel the contract and they broke that promise. What’s worse, there were no active grievances, only AWS’s animus over healed issues.
There are a lot of other issues and facets of this particular case that are not important to my point (namely the Sherman Antitrust act) and I’m not going to cover. As long as Justice is blind, Parler will most likely win and AWS will owe Parler lots of money for loss of income, reputational damage, penalties for breaking their contract and so on.
THIS is my point: By AWS making this a political/ideological decision instead of a profit/loss business decision, who from this point forward will want to do business with a company that breaks their contracts? Amazon got to where it is because they made win/win contracts with other companies. That built a solid reputation. From now on, many companies will look very hard at doing future business with AWS and Amazon overall because these companies will worry that they’ll get “Parlered” if AWS/Amazon takes a dislike to them.
Here’s the video that caught me up to speed on this: