Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Apple Will Let Parler Back Into the App Store

In January, Parler’s iOS app was booted from the App Store because the social network was a deliberately under-moderated platform without demonstrable community standards. Along with Facebook, Parler was one of the platforms used by those involved in the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. It had a more concentrated favourability with pro-violence and anti-democratic users than Facebook, however, because of its weak moderation policies. Apple said that Parler’s app would be allowed back into the App Store if it could show a plan to control hate speech and targeted attacks.

In March, Nicolás Rivero of Quartz reported that Parler was reworking its policies so that Apple would permit the app in its store, but was rejected for not going far enough:

In a statement the next day, Parler’s chief policy officer, Amy Peikoff, stressed the lengths to which the platform has gone in recent months to implement new moderation practices to appease Apple. “We worked tirelessly to adopt enhanced protocols for identifying and removing this type of content,” Peikoff wrote. “We have since engaged Apple to show them how we’ve incorporated a combination of algorithmic filters and human review to detect and remove content that threatens or incites violence.”

Peikoff also wrote that Parler has rolled out all-new moderation features that weed out “personal attacks based on immutable and irrelevant characteristics such as race, sex, sexual orientation, or religion.” Mainstream social platforms like Facebook and Twitter have long since adopted algorithms to block exactly these forms of hate speech (although they tend to use language like “protected categories” rather than “immutable and irrelevant characteristics”). The main difference is that Parler gives its users the ability to opt out of its hate speech filter so they can “curate their own feeds as they choose.”

None of that was enough to win Apple over. But Peikoff seemed to indicate that Parler would make more changes to placate the tech giant. “Parler expects and hopes to keep working with Apple to return to the App Store,” she wrote.

After months of discussion, it appears that Apple is satisfied with the changes Parler is proposing. Brian Fung, CNN:

Apple has approved Parler’s return to the iOS app store following improvements the social media company made to better detect and moderate hate speech and incitement, according to a letter the iPhone maker sent to Congress on Monday.

The decision clears the way for Parler, an app popular with conservatives including some members of the far right, to be downloaded once again on Apple devices.

The letter — addressed to Sen. Mike Lee and Rep. Ken Buck and obtained by CNN — explained that since the app was removed from Apple’s platform in January for violations of its policies, Parler “has proposed updates to its app and the app’s content moderation practices.”

CNN did not share Apple’s letter, but Sen. Lee’s office has published its copy (PDF) if you would like to read it in full. Here’s a key paragraph:

In response, Parler did not communicate a sufficient plan to improve its moderation of user-generated content in the app. Thereafter, and consistent with standard app review processes, Apple’s app review team, ARB, and ERB decided to remove the Parler app from the App Store for non-compliance with the Guidelines. Customers who had already downloaded the Parler app prior to its removal from the App Store could still access the app, and Apple understands that Parler’s website is accessible on the Internet, including through a web browser on an Apple device.

There are no iOS clients for 4chan or OnlyFans, but Parler seems to think its growth will be more straightforward by making its Twitter clone more like better-moderated platforms than to stick to its pretend principles. I think that is preferable. Anonymity and pseudonymity is not why social networks are often vile, nor does it explain why 4chan, Gab, and Parler are generally worse. It is a lack of community standards and effective moderation.

Parler is trying to improve; I think that is welcome. But I do not think it will make Parler a welcoming community for many; if you are looking for a steady supply of vaccine scaremongering and mask misinformation, you’ll love it there. The effects of Parler’s new rules are a mystery for now as they are not yet in place.