Parler is coming back to Apple’s App Store – but with caveats

20 Apr 2021240 Views

Image: © Romain TALON/Stock.adobe.com

Apple has approved updates from the social network favoured by Trump supporters and far-right groups, but with some checks and balances.

It has taken nearly four months, but controversial social network Parler is about to make its return to the App Store.

On Monday (19 April), CNN reported that Apple had approved changes to the app around how it moderates content, which would allow the social media platform to return to the App Store.

Parler was booted out of the App Store in January after the attacks on the US Capitol in the dying days of Trump’s presidency. It was linked heavily with the organisation of the attempted insurrection.

The company is still relatively young, founded in 2018, but it brands itself as a “free speech social network” and gained prominence as a safe haven for conservative and right-wing users who felt unwelcome on Facebook and Twitter.

It had an anything-goes approach to content posted on its platform, making it a breeding ground for far-right extremist views, racism, calls for violence and election fraud conspiracies.

The social network had operated with little impunity but in the immediate aftermath of the Capitol attack, Apple and Google removed Parler from their app stores and Amazon Web Services kicked Parler off it web-hosting service.

It pushed back against the companies that marooned it, including lawsuits against Amazon, and said in March that it had referred violent content to the FBI just before the Capitol attack.

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The social network has gradually recovered, moving to web host Epik, a company that hosts sites like Gab.

Getting the nod from Apple will be a significant step forward but it could mean that Parler acts very differently this time around, lest it finds itself banished once again.

In a letter to Republican lawmakers, Apple said that Parler had “proposed updates to its app and the app’s content moderation policies” and that once these updates were implemented, it would be reinstated to the App Store.

Under the new agreement, some content will be filtered or blocked on iOS but how far the content moderation policy will reach remains unclear.

“While the App Store version of Parler will prohibit some posts that Parler allows, those posts will still remain visible on the web-based and Android versions of Parler,” the company said in a statement.

As for the company behind Parler, it is currently being led by interim chief executive Mark Meckler. Founder and original CEO John Matze was ousted from the company in the weeks after the Capitol attack.

Parler is largely funded by the Mercer family, the conservative donors that also backed Cambridge Analytica and Breitbart.

Rebekah Mercer, the daughter of Robert Mercer, has been the principal force behind Parler’s origins and its resurrection since January.

Jonathan Keane is a freelance business and technology journalist based in Dublin

editorial@siliconrepublic.com