Apple denied Parler from going back on App Store

Apple booted Parler from its App Store in January, citing concerns that posts on Parler could contribute to violence after posts emerged that supported the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Google similarly removed the app from its Play Store. Amazon then removed its web hosting capabilities from the site and knocked it offline.

(Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

Apple and Parler did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Bloomberg News first reported Apple’s denial, saying Apple sent a letter to Parler outlining that its recent policy updates were not enough to satisfy Apple’s guidelines.

Parler was founded in 2018 and rose to prominence last year when Republican politicians and conservative pundits joined the app after Twitter and Facebook cracked down on misinformation and began labeling posts from President Donald Trump. Parler pledged it would stay focused on “free speech” and not censor its users. It got a major bump in downloads after the 2020 presidential election — it was seen as a friendly platform as Trump and his supporters worked to sow doubt about the results.

The company had long taken a hands-off approach to content moderation, allowing pretty much anything that was legal and protected by the First Amendment. The Big Tech companies said Parler would have to employ more stringent moderation to meet their rules.

Parler relaunched its website in February but still wasn’t able to add new users to its app or push mobile app updates. With its relaunch, Parler added slightly stricter content moderation rules.

The site’s second act came after controlling investor and Republican megadonor Rebekah Mercer forced out the site’s co-founder and former CEO, John Matze. Mercer appointed allies to serve on Parler’s board and as interim chief executive, and sources told The Washington Post she is pulling the strings at the company.

Parler’s interim CEO, Mark Meckler, said during an interview on Fox News Channel last month that the company was continuing negotiations to get back on the App Store. At the time, he said he was “pretty positive” the app would be back on the store soon.

But Meckler also said that the company wasn’t interested in getting back on Google’s Play Store. Apps can be loaded on Android devices from the Web, unlike on Apple devices, where circumventing the App Store is nearly impossible.

As a social media app styled somewhat as an alternative to Twitter, Parler’s user base, which numbered about 15 million before it was knocked offline, probably relied heavily on the mobile app. Without a path back to the App Store, the social media network’s growth will be hamstrung.

In the United States, where Parler’s target audience resides, Apple is extremely important for the growth of any mobile app developer. While only about half of phones in the United States are iPhones, owners of the devices tend to be more affluent and therefore bring more advertising revenue to app makers. And some data show Apple’s place in the U.S. smartphone market may be growing stronger. According to Counterpoint research, iPhones accounted for 65 percent of smartphone sales in the fourth quarter of 2020.

Reed Albergotti contributed to this report.