Seattle judge to rule ‘as quickly as possible’ on whether to force Amazon to put Parler back online

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A federal judge in Seattle indicated Thursday she’s likely to take a more measured approach than Parler had wished in weighing whether to force Amazon to swiftly reconnect the conservative social media network to the internet.

Nonetheless, U.S. District Judge Barbara Rothstein said she plans to issue her order “as quickly as possible.”

Amazon suspended Parler’s cloud-services account last weekend — effectively pulling Parler offline — saying a proliferation of posts advocating violence violated Amazon’s terms of use. In court filings, Amazon included more than 100 Parler posts it had reported to the network as abusive, including many glorifying violence against opponents of President Donald Trump.

In a lawsuit filed Monday, Parler asked Rothstein to issue an emergency order for Amazon to reinstate its access to Amazon Web Services (AWS), the digital infrastructure powering a wide range of online activity.

Amazon’s suspension had “blindsided” Parler, the social network said in legal filings this week. Remaining offline would likely “kill Parler’s business — at the very time it is set to skyrocket,” the company said in its complaint. Parler had expected Trump would join the service after he was suspended from Twitter on Friday, likely bringing millions of new users with him, the company said in court filings this week.

In a Thursday hearing, Rothstein signaled she will likely consider issuing a preliminary injunction prohibiting Amazon from continuing to deny service to Parler, rather than a temporary restraining order as Parler had requested. The upshot is largely the same — Parler will either get reconnected to Amazon’s cloud services, or not. An injunction, though, means Rothstein will likely scrutinize both parties’ arguments more carefully than she would in weighing an emergency restraining order.

Amazon has cast its decision to take down Parler in light of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, which resulted in five deaths. Media outlets reported that some of the mayhem seemed to have been organized on Parler and other messaging boards where conservatives have flocked, and that Parler users had penetrated deep into the Capitol building.

“The events of Jan. 6 changed the way we think about the world,” Amazon attorney Ambika Doran said at Thursday’s hearing. “It took what was merely hypothetical and made it chillingly real.”

Parler has said in legal filings that purported ties between its site and the Capitol riot rely on spurious and misleading evidence.

This post has been updated to clarify the type of posts Amazon said violated its terms of use and the difference between a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction.

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