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Politics

Microsoft employees debating whether to kick Parler off Office 365 – Business Insider

  • Far-right social media app Parler has been dropped from Amazon’s cloud platform and removed from Google’s and Apple’s app store in the wake of last week’s insurrection at the US Capitol.
  • Publicly-viewable records show that Parler is using Microsoft Exchange Online as an email provider as of Wednesday morning. Microsoft and Parler did not comment by the time of publication.
  • Internal Microsoft discussions viewed by Insider indicate that Parler is a customer of the Microsoft Office 365 productivity suite — with dozens of employees debating what to do about the situation.
  • Some think that following Microsoft’s peers in dropping Parler would be a form of overreach: “I personally hope that we just let them be,” one employee wrote.
  • Other employees believe that Microsoft should follow Amazon’s lead in removing Parler: “They set an example I would be proud of my employer to follow,” one wrote.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Parler, the far-right social media app favored by supporters of President Donald Trump, was removed from Apple’s and Google’s app stores on Friday in the wake of last week’s deadly riot at the US Capitol.

Not long after, many of Parler’s service providers — most prominently, Amazon Web Services — cut ties as well, leaving the app offline and in limbo as it searches for a new web host. Twilio, Okta, and Zendesk all removed Parler from their respective platforms over the weekend.

However, Parler was an active customer of Microsoft Office 365 at least as of Sunday, apparently using the cloud suite as its email provider, according to internal discussions viewed by Insider. That’s sparked debate between employees over whether the company has a responsibility to follow its peers in cutting Parler off, which could force the app to find a new email provider, even as it hunts for a replacement cloud platform. 

Dozens of employees weighed in on the debates in messages posted to a companywide message board called “CEO Connection,” which Microsoft describes as meant “to allow employees to ask Satya and his leadership team questions and discuss topics that are relevant to the entire company.”

While the messages don’t necessarily reflect the aggregate views of Microsoft’s workforce of more than 166,000 employees, they provide a window into employee concerns. Microsoft did not comment on this story at the time of publication.

Parler CEO John Matze on Sunday told Fox News that “every vendor, from text message services to email providers to our lawyers, all ditched us too, on the same day.” However, publicly-viewable records of Parler’s website show that as of Wednesday morning, it still lists Microsoft’s Exchange Online as its email service. One Microsoft employee noted that at least as of Sunday, Parler’s domain “looks to be active/enabled in Azure Active Directory.”

Some employees believe that regardless of their personal views on Parler, it would be an overreach for Microsoft to unilaterally remove the company from Office 365.

“I personally hope that we just let them be, instead of becoming yet another ‘tech giant’ on the radar for overstepping,” one employee wrote in response to a question about whether Parler should be banned from Microsoft platforms.

Others believe that Amazon did the right thing in banning Parler, taking the site offline, and would like to see Microsoft follow their lead. 

“AWS has acted with integrity and consistently toward enforcing their contracts with customers. They also did [an] objectively good thing for the benefit of our society. [In] this specific instance, they set an example I would be proud of my employer to follow,” another said.

Microsoft has yet to respond to a request about whether Parler is still an Office 365 customer, or whether the company would consider hosting Parler on its Azure cloud platform. Microsoft spokesman Frank Shaw briefly participated in the discussion on Monday to share links to a “couple of good resources,” but his post didn’t mention Microsoft’s existing relationship or plans with Parler.

Parler has also yet to respond to a request about whether it still uses Office 365. 

Meanwhile, it’s not clear how Parler will resolve its hosting situation: Google Cloud and IBM told Insider this week that they would not host Parler, while a person familiar with Oracle suggested it won’t be hosted there, either. Parler has registered its domain with Epik, which is known for hosting other far-right websites including Gab.

Amazon, Apple, and Google dropped Parler is various ways after last week’s US Capitol siege. Microsoft on Monday said it would suspend all contributions from its political action committee, MSPAC, “until after it assesses the implications of last week’s events.” Leaked internal discussions show days of employee unrest about MSPAC, and an executive said the pause was already planned and would be used as a time to solicit employee input.

Are you a Microsoft employee or do you have insight to share? Contact reporter Ashley Stewart via encrypted messaging app Signal (+1-425-344-8242) or email (astewart@businessinsider.com).

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