Parler, an app used heavily by Trump supporters, has been removed from major app stores and Amazon declined to continue to host the app, essentially removing it from the internet. This happened because of multiple threats of violence against specific lawmakers, teachers, Black and Jewish people, and many others all leading up to the violent insurrection at the Capitol. Amazon says that they spent the months leading up to January 6 warning Parler officials about the threats on their platform.
In a list of specific threats of violence, Amazon specifically cited threats to kill teachers. At least one user said that after they kill politicians, “teachers are next.”
Content note: This image containts hate speech and explicit language. Discretion advised.
Some users are claiming that this is a threat to their free speech rights, but the direct threats of violence remind us that this isn’t simply about conservative speech, this was a platform that helped enable the violence we’ve seen from the right.
The AFT has spent the entirety of our 102 year history protecting teachers, and in all the buzz and hubbub around the country during this troubling time, we want teachers to know that their wellbeing will always be at the forefront of our priorities. And in the era of school shootings, with students saying it’s one of their top fears, platforms that allow these violent threats against our teachers and schools must be held accountable.
Amazon, which has poor labor practices and we’ve consistently spoken out against, is right to not allow it’s tools to be used to coordinate and empower threats of violence against teachers.
AFT President and former civics teacher Randi Weingarten tweeted her responses in response to these threats:
Planning a coup on social media is not protected speech. Nor is threatening “to kill teachers next.” Parler became a platform for violence and hate - not one of conservative ideas. That is why Amazon shut it down. https://t.co/yvRhNn4KP5— Randi Weingarten (@rweingarten) January 13, 2021
There is no question that the First Amendment does not apply here. There have always been limits to free speech, for example, it is illegal to yell, “Fire!” in a crowded space when there is no fire, because people could trample one another and cause harm. But when violence is threatened and then ultimately committed, and the safety of people is put in jeopardy, that is where the protection of the First Amendment ends.
The AFT condemns this violence, this mockery of the First Amendment, and the targeting of teachers by domestic terrorists.