Apple to let Parler back on App Store ahead of anti-trust hearing

Apple – which faces an anti-trust hearing on Capitol Hill this week – said on Monday that it will reinstate Parler to the App Store after a nearly four-month absence.

Social media app Parler was removed from Apple's App Store in January after it was one of the online platforms used to incite violence at the United States Capitol [File: Gabby Jones/Bloomberg]

Apple Inc. will let the social-media app Parler back on the App Store after an almost four-month absence, the iPhone maker told U.S. government officials ahead of a congressional antitrust hearing later this week.

The Cupertino, California-based technology giant made the disclosure in a letter to Senator Mike Lee, a Republican from Utah, and Representative Ken Buck, a Republican from Colorado. The social media app was removed from the App Store in January after it was one of the online networks used to incite violence at the Capitol in Washington. At the time, Apple said it pulled the app for violating content guidelines and said it would consider reinstating the service if Parler made changes to better moderate content.

Apple told the government officials in the letter that it found posts on Parler that “encouraged violence, denigrated various ethnic groups, races and religions, glorified Nazism, and called for violence.” Since the initial rejection, as well as rejections of other updates, Apple 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 company said in the letter.

Since Parler has proposed content moderation changes, Apple said it informed the company on April 14 that it will approve a forthcoming update. The letter didn’t specify the changes, but noted that it requires apps to filter “objectionable material,” provide a way for users to report offensive content, offer the ability to block “abusive users,” and list contact information so users can reach the developer.

In Monday’s letter, written by Senior Director of Government Affairs for the Americas Timothy Powderly, Apple said it originally decided to remove Parler independently and that it did not coordinate with Google or Inc. Google also removed Parler from its app store, while Amazon barred Parler from running on its cloud service.

Apple’s decision to reinstate Parler comes ahead of a Wednesday hearing held by the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust and Consumer Rights that is sponsored by Senator Lee and Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota. Kyle Andeer, Apple’s chief compliance officer, will speak at the hearing, the company said earlier this month.

“Apple’s power over the cost, distribution, and availability of mobile applications on the Apple devices used by millions of consumers raises serious competition issues that are of interest to the subcommittee, consumers, and app developers,” the Senators wrote to Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook ahead of the hearing. “A full and fair examination of these issues before the subcommittee requires Apple’s participation.”

(Updates with additional context from letter in fourth paragraph.)

Source: Bloomberg