Current Events

Some Thoughts About Parler and Free Speech

You won’t find many people more outspoken about free speech than me. And that’s why I’m going to call bullshit on everybody who’s crying foul over Parler’s removal from Google Play, the Apple App Store, and Amazon Web Services.

The First Amendment is very specific. It says the government can not restrict “the freedom of speech, or of the press.” It doesn’t say that organizations cannot moderate what they publish or distribute. In fact, the First Amendment makes a very compelling argument that Google, Apple, and Amazon have the right to decide what apps, data, and information can be shared on their platforms. 

Think about it this way: If organizations were beholden to the same First Amendment rules as the government, then any company would be obligated to publish or distribute anything that anyone submits. In that case, look for my weekly recaps of RuPaul’s Drag Race in The Daily Stormer. (Even better, let’s ask PornHub to run ads in Highlights for Children.)

The Supreme Court has set something of a precedent with Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Group of Boston in 1995. It said that the organizers of the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Boston had the right to exclude groups that didn’t align with their mission or message.

Curation, I submit, is a First Amendment right.

Since this clearly isn’t a First Amendment issue, let me state incontrovertibly what’s happening here. Parler is facing the consequences of violating the terms and conditions it agreed to with Google, Apple, and Amazon. I haven’t read any of these contracts, but I can guarantee that these three tech companies have said their app stores and web hosting services cannot be used to promote violence. Since this is exactly what happened, and Parler appears to make no effort to monitor its content and remove offending posts, they are merely facing the consequences.

Parler is certainly not the first example of a company getting booted like this. In 2018, Tumblr’s app was kicked off Apple’s App Store because the company did not filter out pornography. This violated the terms and conditions. Goodbye, Tumblr.

Let me make a few more points:

  • These decisions do not put Parler out of business. They just mean Parler isn’t welcome at Google, Apple, and Amazon. There is absolutely nothing restricting them from continuing operations with another web hosting service.
  • Anyone who compares this to Nineteen Eighty-Four clearly hasn’t read the book. That’s double-plus ignorant.
  • The gay wedding cake comparisons I’ve heard are specious at best, and intellectually dishonest at worst. Google, Apple, and Amazon are kicking Parler to the curb because of what it has done. Bigot bakers are refusing service because of who the customers are. The better analogy (which I’ve seen on Twitter) is that this is akin to a bar kicking out customers because they started a fight.