One has to wonder whether Big Tech realizes that they are essentially validating every argument being made for anti-trust intervention. Too bad it’s taken this long to get to that point, but perhaps Parler’s lawsuit will provide the necessary catalyst.
And it certainly looks like Parler has a pretty good case here:
Parler, the alternative social media platform favored by the far-right, sued Amazon on Monday in response to being deplatformed, alleging an antitrust violation, breach of contract and interference with the company’s business relationships with users.
The complaint asks a federal court for a temporary restraining order (TRO) against Amazon (AMZN) and calls Amazon Web Services’ decision a “death blow” to Parler.
“Without AWS, Parler is finished as it has no way to get online,” the complaint said. “And a delay of granting this TRO by even one day could also sound Parler’s death knell as President Trump and others move on to other platforms.”
Parler’s lawsuit argues that Amazon has unlawfully sought to restrain competition by eliminating a player from the market.
Second look for conservatives at net neutrality? To answer that question, be sure to read Jazz’ post yesterday on the gatekeepers’ assault on Parler. It now involves almost every Big Tech organization except Facebook, and that’s only because Facebook has no gatekeeper status for Parler. Both Google and Apple demanded content moderation on Parler to host its app in their stores, and that was before Amazon shut them down over the same issue.
In any other industry and any other context, that would look a lot like … monopolistic behavior and collusion. It should prompt government action in relation to the Sherman Act, either at the Federal Trade Commission or at the Department of Justice, to determine whether any such collusion took place. More importantly, it demonstrates the dangers of consolidation in any industry, but perhaps especially in the tech and communications industries.
ACLU attorney Ben Wizner warns that these decisions have consequences, even if they are popular in the moment. This goes beyond the Twitter purge involving Donald Trump and his supporters, which the ACLU had already criticized, as it cuts deeper to the issues of free speech and other civil liberties:
Here's what ACLU lawyer Ben Wizner told me, in full, on Parler going dark because of AWS. pic.twitter.com/aIELab0kze
— Davey Alba (@daveyalba) January 11, 2021
Note the reference to “neutrality principles” well. The Trump administration dispensed with net-neutrality regulations at the beginning of their term, which conservatives cheered. If those are recalculated to provide some sort of brake on this kind of deplatforming — or even sold as such by the Biden administration — conservatives might end up cheering their re-imposition.
The real problem here is the laissez-faire approach to consolidation over the last few decades, and the reluctance to grasp what that means in political power. I have argued for years about this blind spot on the Right and what it would eventually mean for access and influence. Parler is the canary in the coal mine — and a harbinger of what’s to come, unless we start getting assertive on consolidation and begin dismantling the mega-corporations.