Parler Voluntarily Dismisses Federal Suit Against Amazon Web Services, Files New State Court Suit

UPDATE: As of March 3, Amazon has removed this case to federal court.

On March 2 in the Western District of Washington, Parler appeared to change legal tactics; it filed a notice of voluntary dismissal without prejudice for its 15-count suit against Amazon Web Services (AWS) for suspending its service, which effectively took Parler offline after the defendant alleged that Parler’s platform was promoting violence. The plaintiff then filed a new lawsuit in Washington state court with different claims. 

On January 11, 2021, Parler sued AWS for suspending its cloud services, which Parler alleged would “kill Parler’s business.” Parler also sought a temporary restraining order to enjoin AWS from suspending Parler’s account and terminating the parties’ agreement. AWS opposed this motion, claiming that Parler violated its terms of service by “clearly” promoting violence and other things, Parler rejected these claims. Judge Barbara Jacobs Rothstein of the Western District of Washington denied Parler’s request for AWS to reinstate its web-hosting services. Additionally, Parler users sued AWS of the suspension of the right-wing alternative social media platform.

In its notice, Parler did not provide any explanation for its voluntary dismissal. Notably, Parler withdrew on the same day it was due to file an amended complaint in the suit after asking for an extension. However, it is possible that the suit was deemed unnecessary after Parler was able to get back online using a variety of services, although Parler could have addressed that in an amended complaint.

Parler’s new lawsuit was filed in Washington state court against Amazon on Tuesday, alleging different claims than the federal suit about AWS’s suspension and termination of Parler’s services. Parler called AWS a “bully,” claiming that Parler “is merely the latest casualty – a victim of Amazon’s efforts to destroy an up-and-coming technology company through deceptive, defamatory, anticompetitive, and bad faith conduct.” Parler emphasized its “alternative business model” to Twitter and other social media giants.

Parler alleged that AWS breached its contract with Parler after its termination and suspension of Parler’s services, asserting that it was done in bad faith, pointing to the previously good relationship the parties had up until a day before the termination. Parler claimed that the “reason AWS gave for terminating Parler’s services – that Parler ostensibly was not pursuing appropriate methods to control the content espousing violence on its platform – was untrue.” 

Additionally, Parler alleged that “there was nothing new about the operation and content of Parler’s platform the day AWS announced it would be terminating Parler’s services (in roughly 24 hours) compared to anytime in the two years AWS had been hosting Parler. Then, as before, Parler quickly removed any arguably inappropriate content brought to its attention.” 

Reportedly, Amazon had not previously expressed problems with this process. Parler added that just days before its termination, “AWS had assured Parler that it was ‘okay’ as to problematic content.” Parler noted that it used a reactive system for dealing with problematic content, which AWS was purportedly okay with, and AWS was also aware that Parler was in the process of trying and testing a proactive system.

However, Parler averred that “two things changed for AWS,” namely that a few weeks before terminating Parler’s services, it “signed a major new contract with Parler’s principal competitor, Twitter,” and “when Facebook and Twitter moved to ban former President Trump from their platforms in early January, it was expected that Trump would move to Parler, bringing many of his 90 million followers with him. And AWS knew that Trump and Parler had been in negotiations over such a move. If this were to materialize, Parler would suddenly be a huge threat to Twitter in the microblogging market, and to Amazon itself in the digital advertising market. Thus, AWS pulled Parler’s plug.” 

As a result, Parler stated that it was offline for more than a month and it has been “unable to gain the reputation and success it enjoyed before AWS terminated its services,” thus suffering harm and damages. Parler added that before the termination, it was seeking funding and was valued at $1 billion, which AWS purportedly knew about; AWS’s conduct has allegedly caused Parler to lose tens of millions of dollars.

Parler asserted 15 causes of action, including violation of the Washington Consumer Protection Act, defamation, breach of contract, breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing, tortious interference with a contract or business expectancy, violation of the Seattle Fair Contracting Practices Ordinance, and negligence.

Parler seeks a jury trial; an award for damages, including trebled and exemplary damages; an award for attorney’s costs and fees; and other relief.

Parler is represented by Calfo Eakes LLP, David J. Groesbeck, P.S., and Schaerr|Jaffe LLP in both the state and federal suits.