The chief executive of Parler said he was fired by the board of directors of the “free speech” social-media company — whose app was kicked off the internet for hosting violent content after the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol — after he advocated for stricter moderation policies.
Former Parler CEO John Matze said he was terminated Jan. 29 by the board, which he said is “controlled by Rebekah Mercer,” the GOP donor who is among Parler’s investors. The news was first reported by Fox Business.
Matze, who once briefly worked for Amazon’s AWS division as a software developer before joining Parler in early 2018, said in a New York Times interview that he had told Mercer that for Parler to get back online the company needed to consider banning white supremacists, domestic terrorists and followers of the QAnon pro-Trump conspiracy movement. “I got dead silence as a response, and I took that dead silence as disagreement,” he told the Times.
In response to Matze’s claims, right-wing personality Dan Bongino, who also is an investor in Parler, posted a video on Facebook in which he said Matze had made “really bad decisions” that led to Parler’s deplatforming. “We could have been up in a week if we just would have bent the knee,” Bongino said, alluding to requirements from Apple, Google and Amazon that Parler remove hate speech and violent content from the app. “The vision of the company as a free-speech site and a stable product, immune and hardened to cancel culture, was ours,” Bongino said, adding that “John decided to make this public, not us.”
In the days after the deadly pro-Trump riot at the Capitol, Parler was removed from Apple and Google’s app stores, with the companies citing threats of violence and illegal activity on the app. Apple “looked at the incitement to violence that was on [the Parler app] and… we don’t consider that free speech,” CEO Tim Cook said in an interview on “Fox News Sunday” last month.
A few days after Parler was booted from the app stores, Amazon’s AWS division terminated Parler’s hosting services contract, citing nearly 100 examples of violent threats on the app. Parler sued Amazon for breach of contract, but a federal judge denied the company’s request for a preliminary injunction to force AWS to reinstate service. “The court rejects any suggestion that the public interest favors requiring AWS to host the incendiary speech that the record shows some of Parler’s users have engaged in,” the judge wrote in the ruling.
Parler had styled itself as a free-wheeling haven for conservatives and an alternative to mainstream social networks like Twitter and Facebook, which have enforced rules prohibiting hate speech and incitement to violence. “Most people on Parler are non-violent people who want to share their opinions, food pics and more,” Matze had written in a post on the app before it was disabled.
Many U.S. conservatives have alleged that big tech companies suppress right-wing users and content. A recent NYU study concluded that services like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have not exhibited any systematic bias against conservative viewpoints — labeling the anti-conservative bias charge “a falsehood with no reliable evidence to support it.”