February 18, 2021
The day has now arrived where you will need to have alternative cloud and DNS registry platforms, as well as other redundancies.
In a previous article I shared the history of Parler, a competitor to Twitter. The company was de-platformed after the events of January 6th when it was inferred that Parler was the facilitator of the rioters. The results were catastrophic for Parler. Without evidence, without legal due process, Parler was simply removed from the Internet by the confluence of actions taken by Apple, Google, Amazon and GoDaddy. As I outlined in the article, the ramifications were twofold. The first is the legal aspect, principally as it regards their role as “common carriers” and how monopolistic power concentrated in a few companies can determine if a company or person can exist on the Internet.
The second dimension concerns this article. What happened to Parler galvanized trends that were already present prior to January 6th. No one, two years ago, would have thought to have a disaster recovery plan in place because of opinions expressed in the public square. But, alas, that is where we are today. Along with earthquakes and tornadoes, you have to be prepared for disasters that can disrupt your operations on the Internet. Today, just about every conservative news and opinion program I have watched uses alternative marketing pathways. The day has now arrived where you will need to have alternative cloud and DNS registry platforms, as well as other redundancies.
We begin at the most fundamental level – the DNS registration. What GoDaddy did to Parler violated the trust that is implicit in the Internet. By suspending the registration, they in effect destroyed Parler’s existence. It was even more profound than Amazon de-activating the servers at their cloud centers, or Apple and Google blocking Parler from their application stores. Without the DNS registration, the https://www.parler.com address would just be letters on a piece of paper.
The Parler IT team no doubt had to hustle to find a registration provider. You may have to do the same. In the event your DNS registration is suspended, can you register it elsewhere? Truth be told, as long as you own the name, you can register it anywhere in the world. Parler came perilously close to having to register their address with providers outside the United States – a sad state of affairs. But that option is available if necessary. DNS “top-level” servers are deployed throughout the world and registration services are usually connected with each.
Parler updated their DNS registration through Epik, Inc.
At the same level of incredulity is the suspension of cloud services. Theoretically, a cloud provider should have absolutely no interest or concern regarding the data being processed on servers you lease. Amazon’s decision to shut down Parler’s servers was completely unprecedented. If there was a reason to do so, it should have been based on findings of a court of law that would inform them of the content. As it was, AWS exhibited monopolistic power that endeavored to destroy an emerging competitor to Twitter.
Parler discovered that they had some problems when endeavoring to switch cloud providers. Regardless of the lack of evidence, “the club” was not interested in providing them with cloud support. The other conundrum is scale or scaling potential. Not all cloud providers are in the place to handle sudden increases in demand. SkySilk stepped forward. Time will tell if they can handle the surge in demand and/or whether Parler can pony up the money to service the demand.
But this experience demonstrates that if you have politically sensitive content on your web site, you are at risk. As some have discovered, simply reporting on a controversial topic can get you “canceled.” This has happened to news operations. So companies need to be careful. Until the Parler case against Amazon travels through the court system, or until anti-trust remedies are applied, a cloud provider can pull the plug.
The best way to find an alternative is to simply put one foot in the door at a competing cloud provider. It is not wise to put all your eggs in one basket. It is important to note that there are other events that can cause you to lose your cloud services, events that have nothing to do with politics. Most cloud centers have redundant operations located in other parts of the world, but some are better at this game than others. Contract negotiations can go wrong and you are suddenly looking at the prospect of moving thousands of servers over to a new provider. A cloud provider can go bankrupt. It is best to have operations with several cloud providers. In the event the primary provider is not available, the transition may not be as traumatic. Your IT team will have experience with the alternative cloud provider and have knowledge of costs and service options. This can even expand at the international scale (my provider, for example, is based in Germany).
Whether it is e-commerce, news, opinion pieces or publishers like myself, you have to communicate to the world somehow. It is interesting to note that amongst all the hubbub about Parler and censorship practices, the one thing everyone has is a web site. The website, alas, is where it all should happen. We sometimes forget that while YouTube is certainly impactful, it is not the only way to communicate to the world and you need to determine at which point it is unprofitable. If your living depends on YouTube, you have a problem. But for most people and businesses I have observed, it is just one aspect of how they communicate and they must prepare for the day that YouTube is not available.
The easiest, least costly avenue to explore is alternative communication outlets. This is a long-term marketing plan. People will rarely jump to another platform like they were at Parler. Alternative platforms often take years to evolve because 1) demand is low and b) technical issues still prevail. As years progress, demand and technology improve.
Thus, the best way to market your brand is to cover several platforms. For YouTube, match your postings on Rumble. For Twitter, match with Parler and/or Gab. For Facebook? Locals.com is a possibility, but they are new on the block. Some folks are even kicking the tires at MySpace. Many are falling back to e-mail. E-mail has some advantages because it goes directly to the subscriber and remains unfiltered. Note that some social media platforms will cater to a range of your market, such as LinkedIn.
For businesses, they will need to keep to their core missions and not expect Amazon to be their cash cow. E-commerce solutions for small businesses are tough to master, but they are available and they should routinely be developed. Rotating your inventory to E-bay or Amazon is certainly a great idea, but remember your website may be, in the long-term, the one thing you and your customer’s can depend on. Amazon has been known to put the squeeze on businesses, but your business may also fall prey to unexpected bad reviews that affect your ability to market your products.
As I explore publishing my work, I find Amazon’s Kindle program a great opportunity. But after investigating issues other authors have had with Amazon, I have explored other options including old fashion paper publishing. Being aware of these options will enable you to explore all the possibilities and hopefully avoid the pitfalls of controversy.
As a final note, it is obvious that what was lacking during this entire fiasco was “due process.” It is highly regrettable. Big Tech’s actions were arbitrary and highly misinformed. As noted through police investigation, the primary communication conduit was Facebook. Parler barely registered on the radar on January 6th. This was, pure a simple, a monopolistic power play. It is classic monopolistic power on display.
To be fair, however, there is a lot of ambiguity in the law as it currently stands. Section 230 of the federal code provides Big Tech companies considerable leeway to define the type of community they want on their platforms. There are some good things they do. I rarely see pornography on YouTube or Facebook – which is good. I have no problem with selective removal of abusive or violent behavior. I no doubt would not be surprised if Facebook decides that no political content is the best solution – that it be reverted back to the innocent platform it once was, where we can share what we ate today, and the latest tricks I taught my dog.
But Big Tech stepped into a gray area when they decided to control speech and the flow of ideas. They exhibited a mob-like mentality by attacking Parler, acting on unsubstantiated rumor and “gut feelings,” rather than on clear facts. They have threatened some of the most guarded principles of the Internet.
The solution will need to be a legal one, hopefully a solution that enables the Internet to abound with creativity and new ideas. What needs to be introduced into the equation is due process. Due process gives people the opportunity to state their case, based on laws and institutions we trust. We also need to define what important rights we need to protect in regards to due process. The right to exist is one of them. Amazon and GoDaddy attacked that right. You would be wise to prepare to defend it.
“Keeping All Your Legal Options Open”, Daily Caller, Caitlin McDuffee, February 17, 2021 – This is an excellent article that includes an interview of Parler CEO Mark Meckler. Meckler provides insights on how you can set up your strategy in diversifying platform services.
“Coordinated Deplatforming Of Parler Under Question As Arrest Numbers Highlight Facebook’s Role In Capitol Hill Riot”, Daily Caller, Michael Ginsberg, February 8, 2021.
"Parler’s new web host SkySilk explains why it’s working with the controversial platform," New York Post, Noah Manskar, February 16, 2021
"Domain Name System," Wikipedia
Parler IP Registry -- https://www.whois.com/whois/parler.com
By Eric Niewoehner
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