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Apple reinstates Parler app, stands by initial ban

The app was banned from the App Store shortly after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
The logo of the Parler app displayed on a smartphone in 2020.Olivier Douliery / AFP - Getty Images file

Parler, the conservative-oriented social media website that was banned from Apple’s App Store and several other internet hosting services after the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, has been reinstated.

Timothy Powderly, Apple’s senior director of government affairs, wrote a letter to Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., and said that Parler had been allowed back into the company's app store as of April 14. Powderly noted that the app had been banned for “including posts that encouraged violence, denigrated various ethnic groups, races and religions, glorified Nazism, and called for violence against specific people.” 

The letter, obtained by NBC News, also said Parler’s “moderation practices were clearly inadequate to protect users from this harmful and dangerous content.”

Despite the repeal of Parler’s ban, Apple’s letter stated that the company “stands by its decision” and that it was “an independent decision to remove Parler for non-compliance with the Guidelines, and it did not coordinate or otherwise consult with Google or Amazon with respect to that decision.“

In the memo, Apple states that representatives from the tech giant held conversations with Parler after Jan. 8 about its failure to moderate prohibited content. Those “private developer communications” were then leaked to the conservative website The Federalist, according to the memo.

Parler has since “engaged in substantial conversations” about moderation with Apple since the ban, which allowed for the app to be reinstated, the letter said.

“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,” the letter stated.

The technology-focused website Gizmodo reported that GPS metadata from inside the Capitol on Jan. 6 showed a flood of Parler users heading toward the Capitol after then-President Donald Trump’s speech. Some Parler users posted selfies, status updates, and videos from inside the Capitol building, which were later used in cases brought against rioters by the U.S. government.

Threats of violence and civil war abounded on Parler in the days before the Jan. 6 riot.

In an interview on a New York Times podcast last month, Apple CEO Tim Cook called Parler’s ban a “a straightforward decision, because they were not adhering to the guidelines of the App Store,” but that he “hoped they came back on.”

“You can’t allow hate speech and so forth. And [Parler] had moved from moderating to not being able to moderate. But we gave them a chance to cure that. And they were unable to do that or didn’t do that. And so we had to pull them off,” Cook said. “We work hard to get people on the store, not to keep people off the store. And so, I’m hoping that they put in the moderation that’s required to be on the store and come back, because I think having more social networks out there is better than having less.”

Parler is owned by the Republican megadonor Mercer family, which previously funded the data collection company Cambridge Analytica and the conservative news website Breitbart.