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Apple has reportedly threatened to remove conservative-leaning social media app Parler from the App Store, saying developers of the platform failed to moderate content that potentially fueled Wednesday's storming of the U.S. Capitol.
Parler was on Friday morning informed that it would be stricken from the App Store unless it produces plans to more effectively moderate content posted by users, reports BuzzFeed News. The app has 24 hours to make the requested changes.
"We have received numerous complaints regarding objectionable content in your Parler service, accusations that the Parler app was used to plan, coordinate, and facilitate the illegal activities in Washington D.C. on January 6, 2021 that led (among other things) to loss of life, numerous injuries, and the destruction of property. The app also appears to continue to be used to plan and facilitate yet further illegal and dangerous activities," Apple said in an email to Parler.
A stomping ground for conservatives, Parler bills itself as a free speech platform and has gathered a heathy user base among radicals booted from other services like Facebook. The app has over the past few months gained an ignominious reputation for hosting far right extremists, conspiracy theorists and those calling for protests and violence in the wake of the U.S. presidential election.
This week, Parler was accused of allowing right-wing activists to incite a riot at the U.S. Capitol that left five people dead.
"Your CEO was quoted recently saying 'But I don't feel responsible for any of this and neither should the platform, considering we're a neutral town square that just adheres to the law.' We want to be clear that Parler is in fact responsible for all the user generated content present on your service and for ensuring that this content meets App Store requirements for the safety and protection of our users," Apple's email reads. "We won't distribute apps that present dangerous and harmful content."
In a post to his own service, Parler CEO John Matze accused Apple of applying a double standard to larger services like Facebook and Twitter.
"Anyone who buys an Apple phone is apparently a user. Apperently [sic] they know what is best for you by telling you which apps you may and may not use," Matze writes. "Apparently they believe Parler is responsible for ALL user generated content on Parler. Therefor [sic] by the same logic, Apple must be responsible for ALL actions taken by their phones. Every car bomb, every illegal cell phone conversation, every illegal crime committed on an iPhone, Apple must also be responsible for....Standards not applied to Twitter, Facebook or even Apple themselves, apply to Parler."
An earlier post says, "We will not cave to pressure from anti-competitive actors! We will and always have enforced our rules against violence and illegal activity. But we WONT cave to politically motivated companies and those authoritarians who hate free speech!"
The takedown notice comes amid a wider culling of social media accounts tied to activists, public figures and political leaders who fomented this week's insurrection. Most damning was Twitter's permanent suspension of President Trump's main account. The move came after Trump continued to tweet inflammatory messages to his followers after being slapped on the wrist with a 12-hour suspension on Wednesday. Facebook also suspended Trump's official account through inauguration day on Jan. 20.
With no mainstream outlet from which to reach his followers, Trump could make the move to Parler where his inner circle has already amassed strong support.
Update, 8:15 p.m. Eastern: Google has removed Parler from its Play store.