Speak Softly and Run a Big Cloud
Bloomberg Businessweek|January 18, 2021
Amazon’s decision to cut ties with Parler showed the often-overlooked power its cloud computing division has over the internet

When Amazon.com Inc. cut off Parler, a social media service popular among far-right supporters of President Trump, it highlighted the power that comes with providing cloud computing to much of the internet.

Parler went offline early on Jan. 11 after Amazon Web Services suspended its account. In a letter to Parler viewed by Bloomberg, Amazon said it was taking the action because the social network was unable to effectively keep calls for violence off its site.

Parler quickly sued, claiming Amazon’s decision posed an existential threat, saying in a federal antitrust lawsuit filed later that day in Seattle that the action was “the equivalent of pulling the plug on a hospital patient on life support.” It’s seeking an order forcing Amazon Web Services to maintain its account. Parler was still offline as of Jan. 13.

Amazon was acting out of political animus, according to Parler, whose suit claims the company made its move not solely on its own behalf, but also to benefit Twitter Inc., the microblogging platform that Parler sees as its primary competitor. Parler said AWS had recently reached a deal to provide Twitter with infrastructural services. Two days before AWS’s action, Twitter banned Trump for violating its policy against glorifying violence, creating an opportunity for an alternative social network to offer a more friendly environment for his supporters. Being booted from AWS “will kill Parler’s business—at the very time it is set to skyrocket,” according to the suit.

The complaint provides no evidence to back up its allegation that AWS favored Twitter. But it does echo a common theme in a growing body of antitrust litigation against tech companies: Secretive deals among a few large entities are allowing them to consolidate power at the expense of competitors. A federal antitrust lawsuit against Alphabet Inc.’s Google centers on its agreements to pay Apple Inc. to be the default search engine on its mobile devices, and a separate suit brought by a group of states accuses Google and Facebook Inc. of working together to rig auctions for digital advertising space.

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