Google has banned the conservative social media app Parler from its Play Store for Android.
In a statement to Ars, Google said it was enforcing long-standing policies requiring that social media apps remove “egregious content like posts that incite violence.”
“We’re aware of continued posting in the Parler app that seeks to incite ongoing violence in the US,” a Google spokesman told Ars. “In light of this ongoing and urgent public safety threat, we are suspending the app’s listings from the Play Store until it addresses these issues.”
While Google didn’t specify which “posts that incite violence” it had in mind, it’s a reasonable guess that they’re related to Wednesday’s riot at the US Capitol that interrupted the certification of Joe Biden’s election as president. The riot occurred after Trump held a rally near the White House and urged his supporters to march on the Capitol.
Activists pointed to posts like this one on Parler that glorified Wednesday’s violence and vowed to commit more in the coming days.
Google’s Parler ban comes just as mainstream social media sites have banned a number of prominent right-wing figures. On Friday, Twitter banned President Trump and former associates Michael Flynn and Sidney Powell. The same day, Reddit banned one of its most popular pro-Trump subreddits.
Social media sites’ increasingly aggressive moderation efforts have caused some conservatives to look for alternatives, with Parler emerging as a popular choice. And Parler has leaned into its reputation as a right-wing alternative to Twitter. When I created a Parler account for myself on Friday evening, Parler recommended I follow conservative pundits and politicians like Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, and Devin Nunes. It also recommended the Parler accounts of conservative website PragerU and the Babylon Bee, an Onion competitor that caters to conservative sensibilities.
But if Parler isn’t available on the Android app store, that could limit its ability to attract new conservatives users. Parler’s growth will be hampered even further if Apple bans Parler from its own App Store. Parler CEO John Matze has told media outlets that Apple sent Parler a letter threatening to ban the app if it didn’t quickly change its moderation policies. But the changes Apple is demanding might conflict with the free speech philosophy that has made Parler attractive to conservatives in the first place.
In some ways, Parler is following in the footsteps of Gab, another right-leaning social network that has faced hostility from Apple and Google. Gab’s profile was raised in 2017 when well-known Internet trolls and neo-Nazis who had been kicked off of other platforms flocked to Gab. Apple rejected Gab from its App Store that year, and Google pulled the app from the Play Store after initially approving it. Both companies cited the app’s inadequate safeguards against hate speech. Gab eventually joined the open Mastadon social network, causing controversy there.