CEO Tim Cook speaks at an Apple event at the company’s headquarters in Cupertino, California, September 10, 2019.
Stephen Lam | Reuters
Apple will allow controversial social media app Parler back onto the iPhone App Store, according to a letter released Monday by Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo.
Apple removed the app in January after Parler was used to publicize the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot when the app’s content featured calls for violence and other illegal activity.
Parler has updated its app and improved its content moderation, an Apple official wrote in the letter. As of April 14, Apple’s App Review department had approved the changes and an updated version of Parler will be approved by Apple, the letter said.
“Apple anticipates that the updated Parler app will become available immediately upon Parler releasing it,” Timothy Powderly, Apple’s senior director for government affairs, wrote in the letter, which was addressed to Buck and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah.
Buck said in a tweet that the decision was a “huge win for free speech.” The Parler app was not available for download on an iPhone on Monday morning, and Parler didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Parler is a social network that competes with companies such as Twitter and Facebook. It was initially advertised as a website and app with an emphasis on “free speech” and significantly less content moderation. It is popular with people who supported former President Donald Trump.
Apple said it removed Parler because the app violated Apple’s app guidelines around violent content. Apple said it was not a permanent ban, only a suspension, and could be “cured” if Parler added moderation and removed violent content. Apple said in its letter that over 30,000 apps had been removed in 2020 for issues with objectionable user-generated content.
“And so, if they get their moderation together, they would be back on there,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said on Fox News in January.
Apple’s App Store rules have been a focus of regulators and lawmakers who say that they raise competition concerns because the app store is the only way for most users to install software on an iPhone. Last week, Apple agreed to send a top executive to testify before the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust later this week.
Google also removed Parler from its Google Play store for Android phones, and Amazon pulled its web hosting contract, which has led to a lawsuit. Parler is still not available on Google Play.
Apple said it did not coordinate with the other companies to remove Parler.
“Apple made an independent decision to remove Parler for non-compliance with the guidelines, and it did not coordinate or otherwise consult with Google or Amazon with respect to that decision,” Powderly wrote in the letter.