Parler's poor choices lead to consequences.

January 11th 2021

Last year I heard of another Far Right Social network alternative to twitter. Why? Because some twitter accounts on the far right were butt hurt that their posting and harassment practices on a commercial network had the consequences of them ending up banned from twitter.

In real life, when we are not in covid times, if you misbehave in a bar (pub) the landlord can barr you from entering that bar, and being served. It takes alot for a landlord to bar a paying customer. You generally have to be a bit of an abusive asshat to get barred for life. But a bar while being a public place, is generally run with the understanding that it is run as a business. Which means that it has to serve everyone and to serve the tastes of the majority of it's customers.

It's exactly the same with Amazon's AWS, Google Play and Apple banning parler. This isn't censorship. I know folks think it is. It's business. The big tech companies and other hosters can do this. They are the landlord, they can barr you from accessing and using their service. Parler is facing the consequences of enabling an attempted insurrection to enable Donald Trump to become a dictator. They had no moderation, and it was being planned for weeks online before hand.

A few years ago Gab had a similar "free speech" issue, their web domain provider suspended the domain. They had to move hosts. Gabs problems were caused by the exact same problems as parler is now facing. Parler didn't take the lesson from Gab. Parler also didn't consider the risk of putting their hosting all in Amazon's basket.

Now before I get into the technical issues with Parler, let's consider the censorship issue. Amazon refusing service isn't a censorship issue. Others have pointed out similar refusals of service by bakers. Amazon can choose to withdraw service. It is it's right as a business. Yes Amazon just told the world that there are limits to what it will host and you are subject to it's terms and conditions. The consequences of Parler's users planning to storm the US Capitol to initiate what Arnold Schwarzenegger compared to Krystalnacht is forcing Amazon to actually have to enforce those terms and conditions. Which Parler agreed to when they clicked the accept button. There's no fucking excuse.

"But what if I want to host free speech?" You ask, "How do I stop Amazon/other big provider chopping off our service?"

It's really fucking simple. Learn to self host. Support smaller internet providers who will host your stuff on their stuff, or buy your own tin. It's that simple. We warned you about centralisation and choosing to put your project with AWS. You decided to use them for scalability reason, or cheapness or some other reason, rather than trying to find a hosting provider in a jurisdiction that isn't prey to laws in the US. Where your users tried to plan a coup. If you are that worried about censorship try and host in iceland or the Netherlands. Yes there are data protection laws, but given what Parler asked it's users to provider in terms of ID verification, the Netherlands would have been a better option. If you care that much about free speech and scalability take a tip from Porn sites and where they host.

Now lets continue by a look back into the past. What happened to GAB? Well people abandoned Gab and it ended up using mastodon code, they are subject to barring from the pub as well though. Mastodon is decentralised, but it does use federation to publish to the firehose of the fediverses feed. Most instances if they wish for their users to have their posts on the fediverse feed have to be federated by the largest one, which is mastodon social. If you don't use their blocklists or their guidance and TOS then you don't get to federate with them. So there is still a centralisation issue. No one federates with GAB, or other problematic instances that promote hate. It's more spam filtering and stopping harassment. Whereas Amazon had decided to enforce it's TOS from a political choice.

Now lets also think about just how Parler got itself into a vulnerable position. Sarah Mei, covers some of the tech fuckups in a twitter thread so I will leave the outage alone. But there has been a trend for many years now to put your stuff in the cloud. If it's not your core business then outsource it. This is how you end up with Amazon and I imagine firms like Bitnami refusing your business. When you claim to be a free speech platform, you need to consider more than just yelling it from the roof tops about free speech. You have to plan for what happens when law enforcement try to shut your site down? What if they need details on your users? Do you want to give them your users information to save your skin?

For that matter if you are a user, you also need to consider these questions. If you are planning an insurrection the last place you want to do it is on a public network. Even if you have to jump hoops to join the network. You need to look at where the servers are, what jurisdiction is the company in? What are the laws on free speech online? If you don't know this don't post.

Folks in anti-fa have known this for a long time. People in repressive regimes have known this for a long time. Most of the time the police don't have to hack you.