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Silencing Trump: How 'big tech' is taking Trumpism offline

Post Date: Tuesday, January 12, 2021


If you ever needed proof of the power of "Big Tech" then the downfall of Parler on Monday morning is a good place to start.

I, like many others, logged on to the controversial social network to see what would happen after 11:59 Pacific Time in the US.

This was the deadline Amazon had given the app to find a new host service before it booted the platform offline for allegedly containing violent content.

It was being seen as a significant moment in ongoing efforts by US tech giants to "deplatform" Donald Trump and some of his extreme supporters after the US Capitol Hill riot last week.

The clock struck 12:00 though and nothing happened. I and millions of other users were still able to search and post just as usual.

But then, like dominos, users around the world starting reporting problems. For me, at about 12:10, everything stopped working. No content found, a message read.

With a flick of a switch then, Parler, a fast-growing app seen by some as a free-speech alternative to Twitter, was no more. For now.

Parler can, and probably will be able to, find a new host provider but losing Amazon Web Services (AWS) - the largest website hosting provider in the world - means other major providers are likely to turn away their business too.

Technology and ethics researcher Stephanie Hare says it's not the first time a major US tech firm has taken a site down for similar reasons.

"Amazon's action against Parler is not unprecedented, as we have seen other US companies such as Cloudflare remove content delivery services and DDoS (distributed denial-of-service) protection and support to white supremacist website The Daily Stormer in 2017 and 8Chan in 2019 after that website was used by a gunman to post materials before he went on to massacre people in El Paso, Texas," she said.

It's not just AWS which has taken action against Parler. Google and Apple have also kicked the service off their app stores too.

Again, this is not unheard of.

Gab, another website billing itself as a free-speech platform but accused of being a haven to the far-right and extremists, is also banned from the app stores. It can still be accessed through a web browser and claims to have seen a surge in users in recent days.

And as part a crackdown on accounts associated with the attack on Congress, on Monday Twitter announced it has shut down "more than 70,000 accounts" linked to the QAnon conspiracy theory.

Facebook meanwhile said it was removing all content mentioning "Stop the Steal" - the slogan associated with Mr Trump's unsubstantiated claims that the November election was rigged.

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