Apple to let ‘free speech’ network Parler back App Store after it vows to clamp down on hate

Josh Milton
·3-min read

Parler will reportedly return to the Apple App Store, three months after the “free speech” social network was pulled from all major platforms.

Parler became one of America’s fastest-growing apps last year as Trump supporters flocked to it following November’s US election.

Racism, homophobia and transphobia, as well as spurious misinformation, soon became rife on the network, and the breaks were ultimately pulled soon after the Capitol riots in early January. Apple and Google blocked Parler from its app stores, while Amazon booted it from its web-hosting service, sending it briefly offline.

Now, Apple has reportedly approved Parler’s return to its App Store, according to a letter released by senator Mike Lee.

The letter, sent by Apple and dated Monday (19 April), states the app has made true on its word to improve moderation and better detect hate speech and incitements of violence.

This means that the app’s millions of users, which has included the likes of Graham Linehan, Katie Hopkins and Milo Yiannopoulos, will soon be able to download Parler on Apple devices.

“Conservative speech must not be silenced,” tweeted Lee, a Republican senator, to his nearly 600,000 followers.

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Lee and representative Ken Buck had asked Apple for details as to why it removed Parler in January. The consumer electronic company explained in the letter it did so as Parler, on several occasions, “failed” to tame hate speech.

Parler hosted content prohibited by its App Store guidelines, Apple added.

Parler had long played fast and loose when it came to moderation – enticing users tired of what they saw as Twitter and Facebook’s increased crackdown on free speech.

In the days leading up to the Capitol riot, which saw a swarm of white supremacists and far-right militia groups storm the Capitol complex, Parler churned with conspiracy theories.

False accusations that Donald Trump had the election stolen from him heaved, as did a loose plot to confront Congress as it certified Joe Biden’s electoral win with violence and aggression.

As Apple’s senior director of government affairs Americas Timothy Powderly explained in the letter, Parler was full of posts that encouraged violence, denigrated various ethnic groups, races and religions, glorified Nazism, and called for violence against specific people”.

Violent rioters gather outside the Capitol building in Washington DC
Violent rioters gather outside the Capitol building in Washington DC. (Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Shunned by tech companies, the letter shows that Pariah pleaded to Apple, “proposing updates to its app and the app’s content moderation practices”.

Across a review stage, a lengthy back-and-forth between Parler and Apple’s app review team unfolded.

“As a result of those conversations, Parler has proposed updates to its app and the app’s content moderation practices, and the App Review Team has informed Parler as of April 14, 2021, that its proposed updated app will be approved for reinstatement to the App Store,” Powderly wrote.

“Apple anticipates that the updated Parler app will become available immediately upon Parler releasing it.”

Powderly, however, did not detail what specific changes to its platform Parler has made, other than stress that it now meets Apple’s content moderation policies.

On Parler’s claims that the tech companies had plotted together to oust it, Powderly wrote: “Apple made an independent decision to remove Parler for non-compliance with the guidelines, and it did not coordinate or otherwise consult with Google or Amazon with respect to that decision.

“Apple stands by that decision.”