Apple allows Parler back into App Store after new moderation promises

Apple plans to allow Parler back into the App Store, having expunged the Twitter-rivaling social network in January over accusations it was used by January 6 US Capitol insurrectionists to plan violent acts. Apple and Google opted to remove the app from their respective download stores, while Amazon Web Services ousted Parler from its servers.

It prompted accusations of tech industry censorship, and reignited discussions about free speech in America. Parler spent several weeks effectively offline as it sought to rebuild on an alternative hosting platform; since then, it has been operating without an official app in the App Store.

That, though, looks set to change. In a letter to Congress, Apple confirmed that it would be allowing Parler back into the App Store if the social network decided it wished that, having been convinced by new policies around hate speech and incitement to violence.

The move to remove Parler in January was "an independent decision," Apple reiterated in the letter, addressed to Sen. Mike Lee and Rep. Ken Buck and posted by the latter to Twitter. The Cupertino firm "did not coordinate or otherwise consult with Google or Amazon with respect to that decision," Apple insists.

By way of explanation, Apple points to two of its rules for third-party apps. Guideline 1.1.1 holds that apps must be free of discriminatory or offensive content, including anything which could humiliate, intimidate, or harm targeted individuals or groups. Guideline 1.2, meanwhile, sets out requirements for apps with user-generated content to provide sufficient moderation to deal with policing Guideline 1.1.1.

"Apple's App Review Team found a significant number of posts on the Parler app that clearly violated Guideline 1.1.1, including posts that encouraged violence, denigrated various ethnic groups, races and religions, glorified Nazism, and called for violence, against specific people," Apple explains in the letter. "The volume and types of prohibited content available in the Parler app further indicated that Parler also was out of compliance with Guideline 1.2 sine their moderation practices were clearly inadequate to protect users from this harmful and dangerous content."

Parler, Apple says, was warned of these concerns in the aftermath of the US Capitol terrorist event, in which rioters stormed the building in Washington D.C. However the company failed to set out a plan to sufficiently improve moderation, and as such the app was removed from the App Store. Those with it already installed on their iOS device were able to continue using it, Apple points out, and Parler was accessible through the browser, at least until Amazon decided to pull its servers.

Now, having apparently convinced Apple that it will take moderation seriously, Parler will be allowed back into the App Store.

"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," Apple writes. "As a result of those conversations, Parler has proposed updates to its app and the app's content moderation practices," the letter continues.

"Apple anticipates that the updated Parler app will become available immediately upon Parler releasing it," the company concludes.

The exact details of the new moderation policies are unknown at this point, and at time of publication Parler's currently-published community guidelines are dated February 14, 2021. Parler previously said that it had voluntarily "referred violent content from its platform to the FBI for investigation over 50 times," the NYT reported, provoking outcry from some users.