Apple Tells Congress That It Will Reallow Parler's App In The App Store, Now That It Has A Moderation Plan In Place
from the because-that's-it's-decision dept
Parler is coming back to the Apple iOS app store. As you’ll recall, Apple (and Google) removed Parler’s app from their mobile app stores back in January, saying that the app ran afoul of their requirements that platform apps must have reasonable content moderation policies. Parler, of course, falsely claimed not to do any moderation, but the company’s then CEO admitted that he enjoyed banning leftist trolls from his site.
After Parler was banned, there was a lot of wasted air screaming about how this was “anti-competitive” and “biased” against conservatives, and all of that was utter garbage. Google and Apple have policies in place, and if you violate them, you can lose access to Google’s and Apple’s platforms. And, of course, it’s since come out that there was quite a battle inside Parler regarding its moderation strategies. While the founder and former CEO, John Matze, had promised more moderation when the service came back, in a lawsuit that Matze has since filed against the company, he claims that he was fired for trying to put in place that moderation policy.
When Parler came back online with new hosting in February, the temporary CEO Mark Meckler had claimed that the service was coming back with AI and human moderators to deal with trolling, but insisted that it would not remove “content that attacks someone based on race, sex, sexual orientation or religion.”
It’s unclear how much has changed, or how effective such a filter will be, but Apple has apparently decided it’s good enough. In response to a demand letter from Senator Mike Lee and Rep. Ken Buck, Apple has said that it will reinstate Parler to the iOS app store. The letter explains, in great detail, how Parler was not following Apple’s developer policies, leading to the ban, and how it has now come into compliance.
Apple has in the past communicated with Parler regarding failures in its content moderation efforts, as well as its desire stated at various times to not moderate content at all. Earlier this year Apple was again alerted to posts in the Parler app that violated Apple?s policies with respect to user generated content. In particular, Guideline 1.1.1 (?Objectionable Content?) states in relevant part that apps should not include offensive or discriminatory content, including that which is likely to humiliate, intimidate, or harm a targeted individual or group. Guideline 1.2 (?User Generated Content?) requires apps with user-generated content to include the following features to prevent abuse:
- a method for filtering objectionable material from being posted to the app;
- a mechanism to report offensive content and timely responses to concerns;
- the ability to block abusive users from the service; and
- published contact information so users can easily reach the developer.
Apple?s App Review Team found a significant number of posts on the Parler app that clearly violated Guideline 1.1.1, including posts that encouraged violence, denigrated various ethnic groups, races and religions, glorified Nazism, and called for violence against specific people. Apple has provided some examples of these posts to your staff. The volume and types of prohibited content available in the Parler app further indicated that Parler also was out of compliance with Guideline 1.2 since their moderation practices were clearly inadequate to protect users from this harmful and dangerous content.
On January 8, 2021, Apple sent a communication to Parler, requesting that it remove specifically identified prohibited content, as well as any similar content. Apple also asked Parler to explain how Parler would improve its content moderation practices to comply with the Guidelines. Given that Apple had previously notified Parler of similar compliance failures on multiple occasions, and in light of the egregiousness of the violations and ongoing potential for further harm, Apple asked Parler to respond within 24 hours. This private developer communication, which is on a secure portal available only to the developer, became public when it was first reported by The Federalist and shared on Twitter by individuals associated with Parler.
In response, Parler did not communicate a sufficient plan to improve its moderation of user-generated content in the app. Thereafter, and consistent with standard app review processes, Apple?s app review team, ARB, and ERB decided to remove the Parler app from the App Store for non-compliance with the Guidelines. Customers who had already downloaded the Parler app prior to its removal from the App Store could still access the app, and Apple understands that Parler?s website is accessible on the Internet, including through a web browser on an Apple device.
In the period since Apple removed the Parler app from the App Store, Apple?s App Review Team has engaged in substantial conversations with Parler in an effort to bring the Parler app into compliance with the Guidelines and reinstate it in the App Store. As a result of those conversations, Parler has proposed updates to its app and the app?s content moderation practices, and the App Review Team has informed Parler as of April 14, 2021 that its proposed updated app will be approved for reinstatement to the App Store. Apple anticipates that the updated Parler app will become available immediately upon Parler releasing it.
It’s unclear how this fits with Meckler’s earlier statement saying that the app would not block content that attacks people on the basis of race and other characteristics, but perhaps Parler’s moderation plans have… been modified.
Either way, this should get people to stop making false claims about “bias” against “conservatives” or how Apple was “too scared” of competition or whatever other garbage excuses will come down — but of course it won’t. The victim-playing culture warriors who now run the Republican Party will not let go, and will insist that, despite all this evidence that it was a straight up contractual violation that was ended when the breach was solved, this was actually some grand scheme to “silence” them. That’s not how it works and going around making up lies to play the victim is a silly way to go through life.