Amazon still committed to hosting Twitter, even as service leaves up incendiary content

Company booted Twitter's upstart rival Parler due to violent posts, but won't say if it will demand stricter content moderation practices from dominant microblogging platform.

Updated: January 31, 2021 - 9:58pm

Retail and tech giant Amazon is still planning to host Twitter on its web servers, even as the social media company continues to allow violent content to remain on its users' timelines. 

Amazon was among the tech companies that took major action against Twitter competitor Parler earlier this month, claiming the microblogging site was not sufficiently policing violent content on its servers, particularly in the wake of the deadly Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. 

Following Apple's and Google's bans of Parler from their respective web stores, Amazon announced that it would be booting Parler from its Amazon Web Services infrastructure, citing the company's allegedly lax content moderation. Parler was briefly unavailable worldwide following that decision, though it has since partially rebooted, with the site's leadership vowing to reopen fully on new servers before long. 

Twitter will move to AWS in spite of content celebrating, advocating violence

Amazon's decision to oust Parler due to its moderation policies indicated that the company was looking to take a strong stance against violent user-generated posts shared through its infrastructure, at a moment when the U.S. was keenly fixated on the potential effects of violent content on social media. 

Yet the company is sending mixed signals as it moves to bring Twitter onto its web services platform, even as Twitter continues to allow both lesser-known and more prominent users to post violent content without apparent repercussions. 

Amazon announced last month that Twitter had selected AWS "to provide global cloud infrastructure to deliver Twitter timelines." 

"Under the multi-year deal," the company announced, "Twitter will leverage AWS's proven infrastructure and portfolio of services to support delivery of millions of daily Tweets."

A Just the News review of various Twitter accounts this week revealed that the social media company has failed to remove many tweets celebrating and encouraging violence, including some that called for continued violent crime amid last year's deadly George Floyd protests. 

Yet an Amazon spokeswoman confirmed to Just the News on Friday that the company was still planning on moving ahead with bringing Twitter aboard its AWS platform. That move had not yet been made, the spokeswoman said, citing the significant technical logistics of transferring the massive amounts of data. 

Pressed on why Amazon would be permitting Twitter on its servers even as Twitter allows violent content on its platform, the spokeswoman said that those violent tweets do not violate AWS's policies as they are not currently being hosted by AWS. 

She declined to speculate on whether or not Amazon would force the removal of those tweets once the social media company came aboard AWS. 

Parler posted 'very real risk to public safety,' Amazon said

The company shared with Just the News a legal brief filed against Parler's request for a temporary restraining order against its removal from AWS. In the document Amazon justified that removal, citing what it said was Parler's "demonstrated unwillingness and inability to remove [dangerous content] from the servers of Amazon Web Services."

Amazon said its concerns with Parler date to "mid-November 2020," when Amazon "received reports that Parler was hosting content threatening violence" in violation of the AWS terms of service. 

The company in that filing cited multiple posts threatening violence at elected officials and public figures. "On January 20th we need to start systematicly [sic] assassinating [sic] #liberal leaders," one post declared. 

"Shoot the police that protect these s---bag senators right in the head," another wrote, "then make the senator grovel a bit before capping they ass."

Amazon's reluctance to comment on whether or not the violent content on Twitter might violate its terms of service leaves unclear how, precisely, the company determines if and when a violent tweet crosses the line from mere rhetoric to public safety risk. 

Yet numerous tweets urging on violence and destruction in the midst of last year's anti-police protests and riots have been allowed to remain up for weeks or months without censorship. 

In one case, amid the start of the often-violent anti-police protests and riots last summer, former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick tweeted in support of the increasingly violent movement, claiming that "revolting" was "the only logical reaction" to alleged injustices. 

"We have the right to fight back!" Kaepernick wrote in the viral tweet that would go on to be shared over 90,000 times.

Other Twitter users exhorted protesters to, for example, "Burn it down to ground" and "BURN IT ALL THE [expletive] DOWN!!!" while flames tore through U.S. cities during the riots as protesters set fire to buildings, including police stations and small businesses. At least one person died in one of those fires.