Parler CEO John Matze this week promised the platform’s 15 million users that the right-wing social network would be back online by the end of the month — but that’s looking increasingly unlikely.
The latest blow came on Thursday when a judge dismissed Parler’s attempt to force Amazon Web Services (AWS) to overturn its ban and restore the site.
"The Court rejects any suggestion that the public interest favors requiring [Amazon Web Services] to host the incendiary speech that the record shows some of Parler's users have engaged in," U.S. District Judge Barbara Rothstein wrote in her ruling on Thursday. "At this stage, on the showing made thus far, neither the public interest nor the balance of equities favors granting an injunction in this case."
Amazon kicked Parler off its services in the wake of the Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6, claiming the site was not doing enough to moderate the content being posted on its platform. Parler’s lawsuit claimed Amazon’s decision was driven by “political animus” and that it had breached its contract with Parler.
But Rothstein said those arguments "failed,” adding that it was Parler, not Amazon, that violated the terms of the contract.
"The Court explicitly rejects any suggestion that the balance of equities or the public interest favors obligating AWS to host the kind of abusive, violent content at issue in this case, particularly in light of the recent riots at the U.S. Capitol," Rothstein wrote.
"That event was a tragic reminder that inflammatory rhetoric can — more swiftly and easily than many of us would have hoped — turn a lawful protest into a violent insurrection."
The company, which is backed by conservative financier Rebekah Mercer and right-wing commentator Dan Bongino, responded to the ruling in a message posted on the Parler landing page, which flickered back into life last weekend.
The statement appeared pretty sanguine about the judge’s ruling, but that may have been because he doesn’t appear to have read it very closely.
“Parler is gratified that the court refused to uncritically accept Amazon’s argument — widely repeated in the media — that the Parler platform was somehow used to plan, coordinate, or execute the despicable January 6 riot at the Capitol,” the statement says, despite the judge specifically referencing the Capitol attack in her ruling.
The company added that it has seen no evidence of people planning, coordinating or executing the attack on its site. However, a huge cache of videos posted directly to Parler around—and inside—the Capitol on the day of the attack suggests otherwise.
Without AWS, Parler is struggling to get its site back online. In a submission to the court earlier this week, Matze said it would cost the company $6 million to build its own servers, money he said they don’t have, adding that the time it would take to get those facilities in place would be financially ruinous.
Matze also added that the company had approached six different hosting companies since AWS pulled the plug and all six said they would not work with Parler.
As a result, Parler has had to turn to unorthodox options. Its new domain registrar is Epik, a website hosting service favored by extremist platforms such as the neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer.
Parler is also working with the Russian company DDoS-Guard, a company that has links to the Kremlin. DDoS-Guard is providing protection from online attacks, as well as masking the identity of the company that is currently hosting Parler.
But DDoS-Guard could now also be in trouble, after a Latin American internet regulator announced Thursday that it would be revoking over 8,000 web addresses registered by the Russian company illegally through a Belize shell company.
Those banned addresses include a number that have been assigned to Parler.
The addresses were revoked after a complaint filed to LACNIC, the regional Internet registry for the Latin American and Caribbean regions, by researcher Ron Guilmette, who has made it his mission to deplatform conspiracy theory and far-right websites, security research Brian Krebs reports.
Last year, Guilmette managed to deplatform 8kun — home of QAnon — for a brief period by simply calling an internet service provider in Oregon to tell them they were hosting extremist material.
While DDoS-Guard may be able to switch Parler’s addresses to some other part of its network, it is clear that there are a lot of people working behind the scenes to ensure the platform does not come back online in any fashion.
Further adding to Matze’s woes was a request from the House Oversight Committee Thursday asking the FBI to conduct a “robust examination” of Parler’s role in the storming of the Capitol.
In her letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray, chairwoman Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) said her committee would be launching its own investigation into Parler’s role as well as its reported Russian connections.
In her letter, Maloney refers to the fact that Matze is married to a Russian national, Alina Mukhutdinova, and many news reports have suggested she is a Russian spy.
Mukhutdinova leaned into these rumors on Instagram when she posted a picture of herself wearing holding a gun and wearing a T-shirt saying, “Trust me. I’m a Russian spy.”
The company addressed the rumors directly on Thursday, calling the claims “reprehensible.”
“Alina, whose working-class family lived in the former Soviet Union, came to America to start her own multi-racial, interfaith family with John. To subject them to baseless accusations that their marriage is part of some twisted espionage scheme — all because she is an immigrant — is precisely the sort of “racism, nativism, fear, [and] demonization” President Biden urged us to reject in his inaugural address.”