Apple’s Tim Cook Defends Parler Suspension

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Apple chief executive Tim Cook at WWDC 2020. Image credit: Apple

Amid criticism of big tech ‘censorship’ of free speech, Tim Cook defends decision to suspend far right Parler app from App Store

Apple CEO Tim Cook went on television in the United States at the weekend to defend his decision to suspend the far right Parler app from its platform.

Following the sacking of the US Capitol building on Wednesday 6 January by Trump supporters, that resulted in the deaths of five people, including one police officer, Google and Apple both removed Parler from their respective App Stores.

Parler itself was shutdown when Amazon Web Services (AWS) stopped hosting the right wing alternative to Twitter. Parler is suing AWS in response.

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Parler takedown

Parler was mostly used by supporters of US President Donald Trump and the right wing, and is also reportedly awash with QAnon conspiracy content.

QAnon is a far-right conspiracy that allege there is a “deep state” campaign against US President Donald Trump and his supporters.

Essentially QAnon touts there is a worldwide cabal of Satan-worshipping paedophiles who rule the world, and who control politicians, the media, and Hollywood.

A hacker archived the Parler posts of Trump’s supporters, to help reconstruct the role the social media platform played in the deadly assault on the US Capitol.

Posts on Parler have called for the killing of Democrats, Muslims, Black Lives Matter leaders, and mainstream media journalists.

Twitter, Facebook ban

President Trump has been permanently banned by Twitter, and Facebook has banned Donald Trump ‘indefinitely’ from its platforms (Instagram etc) as well.

Snapchat has also banned Trump permanently.

Some have criticised the move including German leader Angela Merkel and Mexican President Andres Manuel López Obrador, who are no fans of the outgoing US president.

Their concern centres around free speech, but others argue that free speech does not allow people to call for the overthrow of democratic governance.

Twitter’s Jack Dorsey last week defended his decision to permanently Trump, saying the microblogging platform had been placed in an untenable situation, due to the false and misleading content from Trump, along with his incitement of terrorists to overthrow the democratic process of the US government.

Dorsey admitted that the ban was a ‘dangerous’ precedent but that it was the right decision for Twitter.

Tim Cook

Over the weekend, Tim Cook also took to television to defend Apple’s decision to remove Parler from its App Store, CNN reported.

“We looked at the incitement to violence that was on there,” Cook told Chris Wallace on ‘Fox News Sunday’. “We don’t consider that free speech and incitement to violence has an intersection.”

Tim Cook also disputed that it’s Apple’s job to host every service, regardless of its content.

He noted that Apple has terms of service for the 2 million apps its hosts, and apps that refuse to play by the rules aren’t allowed to access Apple’s massive audience.

“We obviously don’t control what’s on the internet, but we’ve never viewed that our platform should be a simple replication of what’s on the internet,” Cook reportedly said.

Apple will welcome back Parler – provided Parler finds a new cloud provider to host the social network – if the app effectively moderates users’ speech, said the Apple CEO.

“We’ve only suspended them,” Cook noted. “If they get their moderation together they would be back on there.”

Cook admitted that the storming of the Capitol by Trump’s supporters had helped influence his decision about Parler.

“It was one of the saddest moments of my life – seeing an attack on our Capitol and an attack on our democracy,” Cook said. “I felt like I was in some sort of alternate reality, to be honest with you. This could not be happening.”

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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