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Apple has warned the alt-right social networking app Parler that content that promotes illegal activity could be banned from the app store unless moderated and removed.
Parler executives have 24 hours to respond with a moderation improvement plan. This is evident from a copy of Apple’s email made available to Buzzfeed.
“We need your immediate attention regarding serious violations of the App Store guidelines that we have found on your app, Parler,” said Apple’s letter. “We have received numerous complaints about objectionable content on your Parler service, allegations that the Parler app was used to plan, coordinate and facilitate the illegal activities in Washington DC on January 6, 2021 that (among others ) resulted in death, numerous injuries, and property destruction. The app is apparently still used to plan and facilitate further illegal and dangerous activities. “
This doesn’t come as a shock to someone who follows the Parler Watch group on Reddit.
Screenshots of parler messages advocating fighting, preparing weapons, hunting cowards and traitors like “RINOS, Dems and Tech Execs” are commonplace, like this one from the previous day.
Parler screenshot for violence posted on Reddit by RoughLibrary3.
The problem is that the parler moderation is arbitrary at best and nonexistent at worst.
Given the language used in Apple’s letter, Apple seems to have already rejected an app update submitted by Parler. Now the app needs to be removed soon.
Of course, if this actually happens, it doesn’t mean that the millions of people who have already downloaded the app will lose access to it. This would mean an extraordinary extra step by Apple: deleting apps from its customers’ phones and is incredibly unlikely.
According to Google Play, over five million people have installed the Parler app on Android. According to Apptopia, a total of around 6.6 million people have downloaded it, so the app doesn’t seem very popular on the iPhone.
If Parler doesn’t find a way to increase moderation skills, it will likely lose the ability to keep growing, at least on the iPhone.
Given this part of Apple’s email, this seems hard to avoid:
“Please remove all objectionable content from your app and submit your revised binary for review. Such content includes content similar to the examples accompanying this news item, as well as content relating to personal injury or attacks on government facilities now or in the future. In addition, you must respond to this message with detailed information on how you would like to moderate and filter this content out of your app and what you will do to improve the moderation and content filtering of your service for this type of unwanted content in the future. “
This will be a challenge if you only cancel 24 hours in advance.
No doubt many Trump supporters will use this as further evidence that “big tech” is against Trump and against right wingers.
There is currently no word on whether Google will follow suit.