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Sherman Antitrust Act At Heart of Parler Vs. Amazon

Conservative microblogging platform Parler and E-commerce giant Amazon traded barbs as the former sued the tech retailer, alleging it improperly removed the blogging platform from its offerings.

parler2Amazon said Parler was notified its content was in violation of their agreement and requested it be removed. Amazon points to users plotting acts of violence, including politically motivated rape and torture.

“[Amazon Web Services] notified Parler repeatedly that its content violated the parties’ agreement, requested removal, and reviewed Parler’s plan to address the problem, only to determine that Parler was both unwilling and unable to do so,” states legal filings from Amazon. “AWS suspended Parler’s account as a last resort to prevent further access to such content, including plans for violence to disrupt the impending Presidential transition.”

Parler is alleging Amazon violated antitrust laws including the Sherman Antitrust Act. According to the complaint from Parler, which describes itself as an alternative to Twitter, Amazon Web Services (AWS) is in violation of antitrust provisions since it has signed a “multi-year deal so that AWS could support the daily delivery of millions of tweets.”

“AWS is violating Section 1 of the Sherman Antitrust Act in combination with Defendant Twitter,” according to Parler’s complaint. “AWS is also breaching it[s] contract with Parler, which requires AWS to provide Parler with a thirty-day notice before terminating service, rather than the less than thirty-hour notice AWS actually provided. Finally, AWS is committing intentional interference with prospective economic advantage given the millions of users expected to sign up in the near future.”

The civil suit sought a temporary restraining order, damages and preliminary injunctive relief as Amazon was preparing to stop hosting the app. Taking it down, the company argued, “is the equivalent of pulling the plug on a hospital patient on life support. It will kill Parler’s business—at the very time it is set to skyrocket.”

FROM TWITTER

John Aravosis @aravosis

"Dear @Amazon: You donated to the Majority Committee Pac that supported the election of 120--or 82% of the--Electoral College coup-supporters in Congress. We demand that you ask for your money back & renounce future donations to this and other PACs that support these members."

Amazon said its actions had nothing to do with stifling competition or suppressing speech. It said, instead, removing access to Parler through AWS was done in order to protect the public. “This case is not about suppressing speech or stifling viewpoints. It is not about a conspiracy to restrain trade. Instead, this case is about Parler’s demonstrated unwillingness and inability to remove from the servers of Amazon Web Services (“AWS”) content that threatens the public safety, such as by inciting and planning the rape, torture, and assassination of named public officials and private citizens,” reads the filings. “There is no legal basis in AWS’s customer agreements or otherwise to compel AWS to host content of this nature.”

Amazon further argued its actions do not constitute a violation of any anti-monopoly laws. “Parler does not even claim Twitter and AWS communicated about Parler, much less formed an agreement. Nor could it, as a senior AWS executive testified AWS did not authorize and is not aware of such communications.”

According to information from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Congress initially passed the Sherman Act in 1890. Its provisions outlaw “every contract, combination, or conspiracy in restraint of trade,” and any “monopolization, attempted monopolization, or conspiracy or combination to monopolize.”

The act aims to protect competition and consumers and exists to provide incentives for businesses to “operate efficiently, keep prices down, and keep quality up,” notes the FTC.

The regulatory body says: “Long ago, the Supreme Court decided that the Sherman Act does not prohibit every restraint of trade, only those that are unreasonable. For instance, in some sense, an agreement between two individuals to form a partnership restrains trade, but may not do so unreasonably, and thus may be lawful under the antitrust laws.”

Among the acts it identifies as “so harmful … they are almost always illegal” are arrangements to rig bids, fix prices and divide markets.

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