On Monday, Apple wrote a letter to Republicans on the House and Senate antitrust subcommittees saying that the social media app, Parler, will be able to return to the App Store after the app made adjustments determined to be suitable for Apple.
On March 31, Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) and Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) sent a letter to the heads of Google, Apple, and Amazon, asking them to clarify specific questions that the legislators had regarding the action taken against the Parler social network.
In the letter, the lawmakers said:
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.
The lawmakers went on to ask a range of questions regarding how companies decide on such actions when reviewing a specific platform.
In February, The Daily Wire reported that Parler had attained new computer servers and continued its operations after being shut down by several of the big tech companies in January.
The Daily Wire reported:
“We are off of the big tech platform, so that we can consider ourselves safe and secure for the future,” Parler CEO Mark Meckler said in an interview with Just The News.
Meckler said the platform will employ artificial intelligence and “human editors to police for illegal speech that violates its service agreement but otherwise is remaining true to its free speech, no censorship roots,” the site said.
On Monday, Lee and Buck received a response from Timothy Powderly, the senior director of government affairs for the Americas at Apple. The letter answered specific questions that were raised by the lawmakers.
On March 31, @SenMikeLee and I sent a letter demanding answers about why Apple removed Parler from the App Store.
🚨Today, we received a response: Parler will be reinstated on the App Store. Huge win for free speech. pic.twitter.com/FQBDSSSFGk
— Congressman Ken Buck (@RepKenBuck) April 19, 2021
Regarding its content policy, Apple stated that it “wants to provide a safe experience for users to get apps and a great opportunity for all developers to be successful. Apple does this in part by curating the App Store, including by reviewing apps to ensure compliance with all App Store Review Guidelines, which among other things set for standards for privacy safety, security, and performance of apps in the App Store.”
Regarding the review process, Apple explained, among other items, that the company “reviews more than 100,000 submissions per week, and Apple rejects about 40% of them due to various Guidelines compliance issues.”
Specifically addressing the Parler app, Apple’s letter stated that the company “has in the past communicated with Parler regarding failures in its content moderation efforts, as well as its desire stated at various times to not moderate content at all.” The letter went on to provide details about Apple’s guidelines that state “that apps should not include offensive or discriminatory content, including that which is likely to humiliate, intimidate, or harm a targeted individual or group.” Apple also requires apps “with user-generated content to include the following features to prevent abuse:
- a method for filtering objectionable material from being posted to the app;
- a mechanism to report offensive content and timely responses to concerns;
- the ability to block abusive users from the service; and
- published contact information so users can easily reach the developer.”
Apple found that Parler was in violation of some of their guidelines requiring content moderation. On January 8, Apple told Parler to remove certain content, along with similar content, and to respond to Apple within 24 hours. Parler “did not communicate a sufficient plan to improve its moderation of user-generated content in the app,” so it was removed from the App Store.
Since then, Apple explained that it has had many conversations with Parler in order to get the app up to compliance with its guidelines. As of April 14, Parler has been approved to be reinstated to the App Store. The company said that it is anticipating that the new Parler app will be immediately available as soon as Parler releases it.
Apple also said that it “did not coordinate or otherwise consult with Google or Amazon” regarding its decision to remove Parler from the App Store because of its failure to comply with their guidelines and that the company stands by its decision to do so.