Matze claims Parler was originally intended as a content-neutral free speech platform, but it gained popularity among conservatives and right-wing extremists, especially after the 2020 U.S. presidential election.
After the storming of the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, several social media companies banned many accounts from their platforms, including those of former President Donald Trump and right-wing extremists. Many users who had been banned from sites such as Facebook and Twitter began using Parler instead, causing the app to momentarily "skyrocket to the top of the Apple App Store and Google Play Store charts." By the weekend following the January 6 riots, Apple and Google had removed Parler from their app stores over concerns over inadequate moderation of calls to violence on the platform. Additionally, Amazon Web Services removed the network from its servers. In mid-April 2021, Apple announced it would be re-allowing Parler in its app store.
Its interim CEO since February 2021 has been Mark Meckler, the president and CEO of the Convention of States Foundation, Convention of States Action, and CSG Action, organizations that support an Article V convention to amend the U.S. Constitution and severely restrict federal power.
- 1 News and Controversies
- 1.1 Parler Founder Sued Meckler, Mercer and Others, Accusing Them of Conspiring to Steal His Company Share
- 1.2 Meckler Became Interim CEO
- 1.3 Meckler Described Parler Reopening as "War" for Free Speech and Free Expression
- 1.4 Founding and Popularity Among Conservatives
- 1.5 Suspended by Amazon after Threats of Violence
- 1.6 Hacked Data Following January 6, 2021 Capitol Riot
- 1.7 Mix of Mainstream and Extremist Conservatives
- 1.8 Misinformation and Conspiracy Theories
- 2 Ties to the Council for National Policy
- 3 Personnel
- 4 Known Investors
- 5 Contact Information
- 6 Articles and Resources
- 7 References
News and Controversies
In March 2021, John Matze, Parler's founder, alleged in a lawsuit that "wealthy philanthropist Rebekah Mercer, website associates Jeffrey Wernick and Mark Meckler, and podcaster and television analyst Dan Bongino conspired to steal his 40% company share, leaving him with $3." The lawsuit alleges that Mercer, who supplied the founding finances for the website, did not seek to "grow Parler as a free expression platform, but instead to redirect it into [the] ‘tip of the conservative spear’ for a brand of conservatism in keeping with Mercer’s preferences."
Meckler Became Interim CEO
Meckler Described Parler Reopening as "War" for Free Speech and Free Expression
In leaked recordings of internal Parler meetings, interim CEO Mark Meckler called the company's leadership "warriors", saying "love it or not, you're all bound together in a fight... that is actually existential. Parler is a critical component in the fight to save, not just the country, frankly, not just the Constitution, but this concept of free speech is at the root of what it means to be free human beings. The ability to think freely and express yourself freely... this is a war, and you're in the war..."
Founding and Popularity Among Conservatives
Parler was founded in 2018 by John Matze, who served as the company's CEO until 2021. The site is similar to Twitter but allows 1000 characters per post compared to Twitter's 280. Parler "claims to be a social media website that prioritizes free speech and refuses to engage in censorship." The social media platform ran a #Twexit (Twitter exit) campaign in the summer of 2020 that "detailed common right-wing grievances against online moderation, calling Twitter a 'Tech Tyrant' that allows 'technofascists' to censor conservative voices." Parler's rise in popularity in 2020 "can be partly attributed to some very visible conservative names promoting the site, such as frequent Fox News commenter Dan Bongino (who owns a stake in Parler), and Texas senator Ted Cruz."
Suspended by Amazon after Threats of Violence
Following the January 6, 2021 storming of the U.S. Capitol, Parler was "overrun with death threats, celebrations of violence, and posts encouraging 'Patriots' to march on Washington, D.C., with weapons on Jan. 19, the day before the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden." In response, Amazon Web Services (AWS), which hosted the social media platform, claimed "the calls for violence propagating across the social network violated its terms of service [and] said it was unconvinced that the service’s plan to use volunteers to moderate calls for violence and hate speech would be effective." AWS sent a letter of concern to Parler that "contained examples from the platform of calls for the assassinations of lawmakers, members of the media, and activists" and suspended the social media platform from its hosting services at 11:59 PM on January 10, 2021.
Hacked Data Following January 6, 2021 Capitol Riot
In the days following the January 6, 2021 storming of the capital, a hacker with the Twitter handle @donk_enby archived Parler posts, "ultimately capturing around 99.9 percent of its content." From her data, Gizmodo was able to connect Parler users' GPS coordinates to the January 6 Capitol riot, as the social media network "failed to implement routine safeguards against web scraping and, leaving many of its users exposed, neglected to strip location metadata from tens of thousands of videos." The location metadata also showed Parler users in police stations and military bases, which raised concerns about active police and military members' "potential exposure to far-right conspiracy theories and extremist ideologies enabled by the platform’s practically nonexistent moderation and its stated openness to hate speech."
Although Parler users were among the Capitol rioters, larger platforms such as Facebook are mentioned at a greater frequency in a "list of more than 200 charging documents filed in relation to the siege [that] refer to 223 individuals in the Capitol Hill riot investigation." Of these documents, 73 reference Facebook, 24 reference YouTube, 20 reference Instagram, and 8 reference Parler. About the January 6 riots, Facebook's Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg incorrectly asserted, "I think these events were largely organized on platforms that don't have our abilities to stop hate and don't have our standards and don't have our transparency." Sandberg "was later criticized for downplaying her employer’s role as a platform for the organizers of the siege [as] Facebook was far and away the most cited social media site in charging documents..."
Mix of Mainstream and Extremist Conservatives
In comparison to other social media platforms with limited content moderation, "Parler stands out because white supremacists, QAnon adherents and mainstream conservatives exist in close proximity. This results in comment threads on politicians’ posts that are a melting pot of far-right beliefs..."
Misinformation and Conspiracy Theories
2020 U.S. Presidential Election
As described in January 2021, "On mainstream social media, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won the presidential election, and theories alleging crimes by the Biden campaign and Democrats are flagged as misinformation. On Parler, Trump won in a landslide, only to have his victory stolen by a wide-ranging alliance of evildoers, including Democrats and the so-called 'deep state.'"
Far-Right Groups Free to Promote Racism, Anti-Semitic Conspiracy Theories
In comparison to mainstream platforms like Facebook and Twitter, "Parler allows usernames referencing the neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen Division’s violently anti-Semitic slogan, posts spreading the theory that Jews are descended from Satan, and hashtags such as 'HitlerWasRight'... In addition, it is easy to find the implicit bigotry and violence that eventually caused Facebook to ban movements like QAnon. For example, QAnon’s version of the 'blood libel' theory – the centuries-old false conspiracy theory the Jewish people murder Christians and use their blood for rituals – has spread widely on the platform. Thousands of posts also use QAnon hashtags and promote the false claim that global elites are literally eating children."
Ties to the Council for National Policy
|Council for National Policy|
The Council for National Policy (CNP) is a secretive, Christian Right organization of funders and activists founded in 1981 by activist Morton Blackwell, commentator Paul Weyrich, direct-mail pioneer Richard Viguerie, right-wing activist Phyllis Schlafly and Left Behind author Tim LaHaye. Anne Nelson's book about CNP, Shadow Network: Media, Money, and the Secret Hub of the Radical Right, describes how the organization connects "the manpower and media of the Christian right with the finances of Western plutocrats and the strategy of right-wing Republican political operatives.”
CNP membership as of September 2020 is available here.
As of April 2021:
- Mark Meckler, Interim Chief Executive Officer
- Amy Peikoff, Chief Policy Officer
- Akdie Kue Nkaujnaas, Junior Brand Designer
- Antonio Fernandes, Senior Software Engineer
- Austin Danner, Lead Support Technician
- David Leeper, Full Stack Programmer
- Dmitriy Davydenko, Senior Angular10 Developer (NCube)
- Katie McKernan, Outreach Director
- Mark Baker, Design Lead
- Mike Hebert, Head of People
- Tevvin Strong, Software Engineer
- Tiffany Petrillo, Head of Operations
- Vladyslav Vcherashnii, Head of iOS Engineering
As of February 2021:
- Mark Meckler
- Matthew Richardson, former General Secretary, UK Independence Party
Articles and Resources
- Convention of States Action
- Convention of States Foundation
- Council for National Policy
- CSG Action
- Donald Trump
- Fox News
- Joe Biden
- Mark Meckler
- Rebekah Mercer
- Tebany Yune, "What is Parler and why won't conservatives shut up about it?", Mic, June 29, 2020, accessed April 23, 2021.
- Parler, About, organizational website, accessed April 22, 2021.
- Michael Grothaus, "Parler got destroyed this weekend: a timeline", Fast Company, January 11, 2021, accessed April 22, 2021.
- Jonathan Schieber, "Parler jumps to No. 1 on App Store after Facebook and Twitter bans", TechCrunch, January 9, 2021, accessed April 23, 2021.
- Barbara Ortutay, "Apple signals return of right-wing 'free speech' app Parler", Chron, April 19, 2021, accessed April 22, 2021.
- Jeff Horwitz and Keach Hagey, "Parler Makes Play for Conservatives Mad at Facebook, Twitter", Wall Street Journal, November 15, 2020, accessed April 23, 2021.
- Alex Kotch, "Parler Is Now in the Hands of a Right-Wing Activist Seeking a Radical Rewrite of the Constitution", ExposedbyCMD, February 15, 2021, accessed April 22, 2021.
- Megan Sheets, "Parler announces its relaunch with Mark Meckler named as interim CEO a month after being shut down in the wake of the Capitol riots", Daily Mail, February 15, 2021, accessed April 12, 2021.
- David Armiak, "Radical Resolution Calling for a Constitutional Rewrite Passes Wisconsin Assembly", Exposed by CMD, February 25, 2020, accessed April 12, 2021.
- Rachel Lerman, "Ousted Parler CEO sues company, alleges stake was taken", Washington Post, March 23, 2021, accessed April 12, 2021.
- William Turton, "Mercer-Backed Parler Casts Its Reboot as Fight for Free Speech", Bloomberg News, March 16, 2021, accessed April 12, 2021.
- John Paczkowski and Ryan Mac, "Amazon Will Suspend Hosting For Pro-Trump Social Network Parler", Buzzfeed News, January 9, 2021.
- Dell Cameron, "Every Deleted Parler Post, Many With Users' Location Data, Has Been Archived", Gizmodo, January 11, 2021, accessed April 26, 2021.
- Dell Cameron and Dhruv Mehrotra, "Leaked Parler Data Points to Users at Police Stations, U.S. Military Bases", Gizmodo, January 15, 2021.
- Thomas Brewster, "Sheryl Sandberg Downplayed Facebook’s Role In The Capitol Hill Siege—Justice Department Files Tell A Very Different Story", Forbes, February 7, 2021.
- Alex Newhouse, "Big Tech’s rejection of Parler shuts down a site favored by Trump supporters – and used by participants in the US Capitol insurrection", The Conversation, January 12, 2021, accessed April 23, 2021.
- LinkedIn, Parler search results, organizational website, accessed April 21, 2021.
- Elizabeth Culliford and Katie Paul, "Parler CEO John Matze says he was fired by board", Reuters, February 3, 2021, accessed April 23, 2021.