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The Cyber-Eviction of Parler by Amazon Web Services
Imagine you opened a store on Main Street. A constant flow of customer traffic comes through the front door, browses, and walks out excited about their purchase.
One morning, you discover the landlord switched the locks. Neither you nor your customers can get into your store because he doesn’t like how you do business.
The landlord’s actions, in this story, are illegal.
Eviction requires a remedy process that features a significant notification period. During this period, both landlord and tenant can make their respective arrangements. And while the schedule will be tight, the tenant will have time to move their stuff out and notify their customers of their new location.
AWS (Amazon Web Services) is the largest landlord on the web. AWS hosts many of your favorite websites and apps. The company gave Parler 24 hours’ notice and then enacted a cyber-eviction on a Sunday. Why? Because AWS representatives didn’t like how Parler was doing business.
Pause. It’s easy to get distracted from the argument we’ll make here. There are many things to say about Donald Trump, election integrity, and censorship. But this is all Conflict Machine noise — a byproduct of the political system designed to divide us into angry warring tribes. None of those partisan arguments are relevant to the very specific case we’ll address here.
To be clear, it’s highly debatable whether AWS’s actions are presently illegal under U.S. code. But, on a common law basis, they should be. AWS owes Parler for damages. The landlord locked the front door of their business, with insufficient notice. Parler had no chance to move their stuff.
Property not Antitrust
Most people think this is a political dispute. When you use the correct filter to analyze, you can solve the problem. This case is actually a property dispute.
Think about it. What is a home page but a front door? If something is offered on a website, is that not also a virtual store? Does a cyberstore lack an address? Do customers come to browse?
Parler has chosen to sue AWS. Their first claim is antitrust. But it doesn’t matter how much of the market AWS claims. It also doesn’t matter whether they followed the lead of other industry players or coordinated with them.
Simply put, if AWS wants to end their business with Parler, the reasons aren’t relevant. That’s how free association works!
Parler’s second claim is more interesting. The AWS contract provides, in virtually every instance, a 30-day notice. Parler’s lawsuit claims insufficient notice. Indeed, if you reapply the analogy of your shop, moving your stuff is going to take time. The Exit Network spoke with an industry veteran, who indicated that relocating Parler’s cyber-property would conservatively require two weeks, provided they planned such a move in advance and nothing went wrong. In other words, even 30 days would be a difficult deadline.
But in a common law approach, 30 days is probably reasonable. Why? In a world where we practiced Human Respect, the happiness of both parties would be considered.
On one hand, we can empathetically relate to AWS’s position. Each of us can envision a situation where we’re stuck in a relationship with someone, where some kind of divorce would be desirable. We’d want out as soon as possible.
On the other hand, we can also put ourselves in Parler’s shoes. Eviction is a major disruption and potentially fatal. If the relationship is going to be ended, we’d at least want to grab our stuff and have some time to make other arrangements.
What About Violence and Insurrection?
AWS and its media defenders justify this eviction on the basis that Parler was permitting expressions of violence and seditious plots. Perhaps Parler’s failure to “police’’ these expressions played a role in the January 6th invasion of the U.S. Capitol. AWS didn’t want to be a party to Parler’s recklessness.
But that claim fails to justify AWS’s rushed eviction of Parler.
At present, the federal government has a vast apparatus for spying on Americans. It tracks and records the metadata for all your phone calls. The NSA captures all of your emails and online communications. When people post plans for insurrection on Parler, the government can know that for itself.
And if AWS has these fears, they could turn over what they know to the FBI.
Indeed, if there is seditious or terrorist activity occurring on Parler’s platform, it might be strategically sound to leave things undisturbed. Former FBI Director, James Comey, was confronted with the same issue. Comey indicated that Twitter’s blocking of ISIS pushed the terrorist group “to a place where they’re less able to proselytize broadly but more able to communicate in a secure way. [We’ve] chased them to apps like Telegram.” In other words, it was actually harder for intelligence agents to track their movements and behavior.
A Human Respect Solution
Did Parler deserve to be deplatformed? That has nothing to do with what we’re discussing here. Instead…
We, at The Exit Network, maintain that AWS didn’t treat Parler with Human Respect.
Clearly, AWS and Parler were no longer compatible. How should that dispute be settled?
The Human Respect solution is eviction as practiced in the common law tradition. AWS should’ve honored the 30-day notice.
Human Respect is based on a principle: Where we fail to take everyone’s happiness into account, harmony decreases. In this case, AWS’s abrupt cyber-eviction appeared vindictive — a salvo in an escalating culture war that portends even less Human Respect and, consequently, even greater levels of social division.
Jim Babka is the host of The Exit Network. Joanna Blaine provided research. Our website is Coming Soon!