Parler wants an apology from Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg after a report said the FBI found little evidence the Capitol riot was a coordinated attack

Parler app and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.
Parler app and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.

  • Sheryl Sandberg said she thought the Capitol attack was planned on platforms other than Facebook.
  • A new Reuters report said the FBI found scant evidence the attack was an organized plot.
  • Parler is now asking for an apology from Sandberg and others who it says used it as a scapegoat.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Parler is owed an apology, according to its CEO George Farmer.

The “free speech” social media app that became a favorite of conservatives said in a statement provided to Insider that it was mistreated after the January 6 Capitol riot.

The statement came after a report published by Reuters on Friday said the FBI did not find evidence that the attack on the Capitol was the result of a pre-planned, organized plot. The outlet cited four current and former law enforcement officials.

Read more: Silicon Valley is falling apart – force feeding us lazy and derivative tech

“In other words,” according to Parler, “there is no evidence justifying the rush to judgment and accusations by many-including, notably, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg-that the events of January 6 were the results of deliberate coordination conducted on up-and-coming social media platforms Parler and Gab.”

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said in an interview days after the riot that Facebook was not used to plan the attack, and pointed to smaller platforms like Parler and Gab.

“I think these events were largely organized on platforms that don’t have our abilities to stop hate, don’t have our standards and don’t have our transparency,” Sandberg said.

Farmer said the Reuters report showed Parler and Gab were “unjustly scapegoated.”

“As we told Congress earlier this year, while we did not see any evidence of coordination on Parler, we did see, in the weeks leading up to January 6, an increase in the amount of violent and inciting content,” Farmer said.

“We are owed an apology from everyone who rushed to judgment about Parler-but especially from our competitors and service providers who should have known better. From some, perhaps, financial restitution might be in order.”

Facebook did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

Have a news tip? Contact this reporter at kvlamis@insider.com.

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Trump reps reportedly told Parler he’d become an active member of the right-wing platform if it banned his critics, but it refused

Donald Trump
Former President Donald Trump.

  • Trump was reportedly prepared to join Parler, the social-media site, if it banned his critics.
  • Trump reps told Parler he could become an active user on Parler, per an excerpt from an upcoming Michael Wolff book.
  • Parler, which is popular with the far-right, balked at the suggestion of banning Trump’s critics, Wolff wrote.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Former President Donald Trump was prepared to become an active user of social-media site Parler if it banned his critics – but it resisted doing so, according to an excerpt from an upcoming Michael Wolff book.

In an excerpt from “Donald Trump’s January 6: The view from inside the Oval Office,” published in New York Magazine on Monday, Wolff wrote that Trump’s representatives approached Parler when Trump was in office, proposing that he join the platform once he left the White House.

Parler is a right-wing website that was popular with pro-Trump extremists around the time of the Capitol riots on January 6.

“They had floated a proposition that Trump, after he left office, become an active member of Parler, moving much of his social-media activity there from Twitter,” Wolff wrote.

Under their proposal, Trump would receive 40% of Parler’s gross revenues, and Parler “would ban anyone who spoke negatively about him,” Wolff wrote.

“Parler was balking only at this last condition,” he wrote.

The 40% figure has been previously reported.

Trump never became an active member of Parler. Twitter and Facebook blocked Trump after the deadly insurrection at the Capitol, citing “the risk of further incitement of violence.”

Insider has reached out to Parler for comment.

Trump considered joining Parler under the pseudonym “Person X,” its former CEO, John Matze, said in a court filing in January. Matze, ousted as CEO earlier this year, said that Amazon Web Services (AWS) knew about these plans while it hosted Parler. It terminated its contract with Parler – essentially knocking the site offline – to prevent Trump from having any social media presence, Matze claimed.

At the time, Amazon said that “suspending Parler had nothing to do with politics.” It suspended the site because Parler was “unable to effectively identify and remove content that encourages or incites violence,” it said.

Parler came back online in February with a new web host and new CEO.

Parler became a platform for pro-Trump extremists to gather before and during the January 6 riots, in part because of its lack of content moderation. Following the riots, Apple and Google removed Parler from their app stores.

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Parler is back on the App Store with a ‘PG’ version that only cracks down on hate speech on Apple devices

Parler
This illustration picture shows social media application logo from Parler displayed on a smartphone with its website in the background.

  • Parler returned to the App Store on Monday after it had been kicked off in January.
  • On Apple devices any posts that are identified as hate speech will not be visible.
  • The company’s chief policy officer said it will be like a “PG” version of Parler.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Parler returned to Apple’s App Store on Monday after it had been kicked off following the January 6 Capitol Siege.

Apple announced last month that it had approved several changes to the app related to hate speech. Upon its return, Parler will look different – at least on Apple devices. While the Parler website allows any legal content to be viewed, the App Store version includes “enhanced threat-and-incitement reporting tools,” according to the listing on the App Store.

That means that posts identified as participating in hate speech will be removed from Apple devices, while the same posts labeled as “hate” will still be visible on Parler’s website.

Parler’s interim CEO Mark Meckler told Insider in a statement that the site worked to meet Apple’s standards, while maintaining its focus on free speech.

“The entire Parler team has worked hard to address Apple’s concerns without compromising our core mission,” Meckler said. “Anything allowed on the Parler network but not in the iOS app will remain accessible through our web-based and Android versions. This is a win-win for Parler, its users, and free speech.”

Parler’s chief policy officer, Amy Peikoff, told The Washington Post that the company is pressing Apple to allow the content to remain on the app, but with a warning label. Apple had listed banning the content as one of its conditions for allowing the application back on its store.

Peikoff told The Washington Post the milder version of Parler that is on Apple devices could be called “Parler Lite or Parler PG.”

“Where Parler is different [from Apple], is where content is legal, we prefer to put the tools in the hands of users to decide what ends up in their feeds,” she said.

In the past, the social-media app has avoided censoring its content, identifying itself as a “free speech” alternative to Twitter. The app tried to return to Apple devices in February but was blocked by the company. Apple cited several examples of hate speech, including Nazi symbols, in its decision to not allow the app to return.

Parler was removed from the App Store in January – at the time it was the most downloaded app on the store – after numerous Capitol rioters used the site to organize the insurrection at the Capitol. Following the Capitol insurrection, other web providers including Google Cloud and Amazon Web Services banned Parler.

Parler’s website was restored when SkySilk began hosting it in February, but it has yet to return to the Google Play store. Apple and Google spokespeople were not immediately available to comment.

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Former Parler CEO John Matze launched a GoFundMe page to crowdfund his legal fees

Parler CEO John Matze
Parler CEO John Matze

  • Parler’s former CEO is looking to crowdfund his legal fees.
  • John Matze’s time at Parler came to an end earlier this year.
  • He says he was forced out by the board, including the conservative mega-donor Rebekah Mercer.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The former CEO of Parler, John Matze, announced Thursday that he had launched a GoFundMe page to support legal fees “associated with [his] departure from Parler.”

“I also am likely heading into a Congressional investigation into Parler, and it is uncertain whether Parler will indemnify me for the inevitable costs of defending this investigation,” Matze wrote on the GoFundMe page. The right-wing social media app is embroiled in a Congressional investigation following the January attacks on the US Capitol.

Matze said he will use the funds to cover legal fees related to the Congressional inquiry, security costs, travel expenses associated with any hearings, and “repayment for any legal fees associated with defense and prosecution of ongoing litigation and negotiations.”

Matze’s fundraising page has a $150,000 goal, and had raised over $3,000 as of Thursday afternoon.

Parler CEO John Matze GoFundMe page

Matze’s departure from Parler was acrimonious. He said that he was fired out by the company’s board, namely mega-donor Rebekah Mercer, Insider reported.

In March, Insider reported that Matze was suing Parler over his departure and accusing the company of taking his 40% ownership stake. Insider reported that the lawsuit claimed Matze was ousted after he said the platform should have more stringent content-moderation policies.

Parler was removed from the Apple and Google app stores in January following reports that some of its users had organized the attacks on the Capitol on the platform, which is often used by far-right and right-wing members. After the app stores removed Parler, Amazon Web Services also stopped providing hosting services, forcing the platform offline.

Insider also reported that after Amazon Web Services took the site offline, a new host took over and the site is back up, though the app is still unavailable on the Google and Apple app stores.

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Parler allegedly warned the FBI of ‘specific threats of violence’ more than 50 times ahead of the Capitol riot

Parler
This illustration picture shows social media application logo from Parler displayed on a smartphone with its website in the background.

  • Parler said it alerted the FBI more than 50 times to threats at the Capitol ahead of the January 6 riot.
  • The platform, known for its userbase of conservatives and far-right extremists, said it reported “specific threats” to the FBI.
  • The Department of Justice has previously said insurrectionists used Parler to plan the violent events.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Conservative social media network Parler asserted in a letter to a Democratic lawmaker that the platform warned the FBI of “specific threats of violence” days ahead of the January 6 Capitol riot.

The letter, addressed to Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York on Thursday, said the platform reported these threats to the FBI more than 50 times, the Washington Post reported.

Parler, which advertises itself as a platform for unregulated language and “free speech,” said it alerted the FBI to posts containing specific references to the Capitol, according to the Post.

One post, published December 24 on the platform, was from a user who “called for the congregation of an armed force of 150,000 on the Virginia side of the Potomac River to ‘react to the congressional events of January 6th.'”

Another user allegedly wrote on the platform that a planned event on January 6 was “not a rally” and “no longer a protest,” lawyers wrote in the letter, according to the Washington Post.

“This is the final stand where we are drawing the red line at Capitol Hill,” one user allegedly wrote, according to the letter. “I trust the American people will take back the USA with force and many are ready to die to take back #USA so remember this is not a party until they announce #Trump2020 a winner . . . And don’t be surprised if we take the #capitalbuilding” [sic].

The Capitol riot left at least five people, including one police officer, dead. Members of the Proud Boys, which is classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, were present, according to authorities.

Organizers were emboldened by President Donald Trump’s calls to protest the results of the 2020 election, despite Democrat Joe Biden’s election victory. While members of Congress were meeting inside the Capitol to certify the results, supporters organized an attempted coup and stormed it.

Upon news that the riot breached the building, lawmakers began to shelter in place and many evacuated.

Parler, which has become a mainstay in alt-right communication, has been criticized and scrutinized for its alleged role in the Capitol riot.

As Insider’s Jacob Shamsian reported, Parler’s userbase is largely made up of far-right extremists. The Justice Department has previously said many of those extremists organized the violent events planned for January 6 using the platform.

And after former President Donald Trump’s Twitter account was disabled, top conservatives began sharing their Parler accounts on the platform, encouraging their followers to gravitate there. Among them was Angela Stanton-King, a Republican QAnon supporter who ran in November to represent Georgia’s 5th Congressional District, the seat last held by the deceased Rep. John Lewis.

In the days following the Capitol riot, Apple and Google app stores blocked Parler for violating terms of service. Amazon Web Services also dropped it. These actions effectively took the platform offline.

In February, the company announced that site was up and running with a Tea Party co-founder serving as interim CEO. Mark Meckler, an attorney, political activist, and founder of the Tea Party Patriots, replaced former CEO and co-founder John Matze, who was fired by the company’s board.

Parler has previously shared information with the FBI during the DOJ’s investigation into the Capitol riot. It’s not clear whether Parler handed over information to the FBI after the Department of Justice issued a warrant or subpoena for it or whether the company gave the information over of its own accord.

Parler, Maloney’s office, and the FBI did not immediately return Insider’s requests for comment.

Insider’s Jacob Shamsian contributed to this report.

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Trump may partner with an obscure social media app ‘built on the power of positivity’ to launch his own network

Donald Trump on phone
President Donald Trump.

Twitter banned then-President Donald Trump on January 8, two days after the attacks on the US Capitol, cutting off his access to a bully pulpit of nearly 90 million followers. Facebook followed the next day, severing ties between Trump and another 33 million accounts.

Some initially thought Trump might reappear on Parler, a far-right haven that the Trump Organization had previously held talks with, as an anonymous “Person X” – but those efforts fell through.

Since then, Trump’s advisors have repeatedly teased new media companies that the former president might create to broadcast his message, including one built by his former campaign manager Brad Parscale.

But Axios reported Wednesday that Trump is also in talks with a relatively obscure social media app called FreeSpace, an affiliate of Skylab Apps, that has just 20,000 downloads and not many users.

By comparison, Twitter has 192 million daily users, according to its latest quarterly earnings report.

The details of a Trump-FreeSpace deal, if one is reached at all, aren’t yet clear, according to Axios. A spokesperson for Trump did not respond to a request for comment.

FreeSpace says its app is backed by science that makes people “‘addicted’ to doing good,” “built on the power of positivity,” and wants to “make social media fun again.” It would appear to be an odd partnership for Trump, who is one of the world’s largest promoters of misinformation and has consistently used racist, sexist, xenophobic, and violence-inciting language that eventually got him booted from mainstream platforms.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Former Parler CEO John Matze has sued the social-media site and conservative megadonor Rebekah Mercer, accusing them of wrongly ousting him and taking his 40% stake

John Matze, Rebekah Mercer
The lawsuit by John Matze (left) alleges that Rebekah Mercer (right) was responsible for his wrongful ousting from Parler in January.

  • Former CEO John Matze sued Parler Monday, accusing it of “theft” of his 40% ownership stake.
  • The lawsuit claimed that the company wrongly ousted him after he proposed stricter content moderation.
  • Board head Rebekah Mercer used the platform to advance her own political interests, the lawsuit said.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Parler has been sued by its former CEO John Matze.

Matze claimed in the lawsuit,, filed Monday in Nevada, that he was wrongly ousted in January after he proposed stricter content-moderation rules for the social-media site, which is popular with the far-right.

The suit also claimed that conservative megadonor Rebekah Mercer, who heads Parler’s board, and other senior staff conspired to take Matze’s 40% stake in the company and used the platform to advance her own political interests.

Mercer, who already owned a 60% stake in the site, “sought to co-opt [Parler] as a symbol or as the ‘tip of the spear’ for her brand of conservatism, and plotted to force Matze out,” the suit said.

Matze is seeking “millions” in compensatory damages.

The Las Vegas Sun first reported on the news.

Insider contacted Parler for comment, but did not immediately receive a response.

Parler, which became a haven for far-right activity because of its lax stance on moderating content, came under fire during the January Capitol riots, when users cheered on the protestors or called for more violence. After the siege, Parler was booted offline by its previous web host Amazon Web Services, and shunned by other tech giants, including Apple and Google.

AWS said that the site “poses a very real risk to public safety” and refused to remove content that incited violence. Parler denied this.

Read more: Facebook says it removed more than 1.3 billion fake accounts in the months surrounding the 2020 election

The new filing claimed Matze proposed new content-moderation policies that would have banned posts that incited violence while still supporting free speech. His ideas were shunned by Parler’s board, who instead wanted to use the site for their own political interests, the suit said.

“Matze’s proposal was met with dead silence, which he took to be a rejection of his proposal,” the suit said.

The lawsuit claimed that Matze was then “abruptly ousted in violation of the law and public policy.”

According to the suit, Jeffrey Wernick, the company’s chief operating officer, contacted Matze on January 28 and “threatened him with financial ruin” and an “avalanche of legal claims” if he did not immediately resign.

This was at the “clear and apparent direction of Mercer,” the suit said.

After Matze refused to resign, he was fired “without reason,” the lawsuit said.

Matze claims Parler stole his 40% stake

The lawsuit also accused the defendants of the “orchestrated theft” of Matze’s 40% stake in Parler.

The lawsuit said Mercer had told Matze that Parler should be valued at “at least” $1 billion, and that she knew Matze’s stake was worth “multi-million dollars.”

But the defendants told Matze after he was ousted that his 40% stake was only worth $3, the suit claimed.

Parler’s operating agreement allowed the forced sale and purchase of Matze’s stake, according to the suit. The suit said that the defendants shared out the 40% stake among themselves after Matze was fired – it didn’t specifically say how much Matze was paid.

“This scheme is epitomized by oppression, fraud and malice, for which Matze is entitled to punitive damages trebling (at a minimum) the millions that he is owed in compensatory damages,” the suit said.

The suit names Parler, Mercer, Wernick, interim CEO Mark Meckler, and right-wing personality Dan Bongino, who is accused of fabricating misconduct claims against Matze, as defendants.

Earlier this month, Parler filed a new lawsuit against Amazon, alleging that the tech giant had breached its contract with Parler when it took the site offline. The site is now back online with web host SkySilk.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Parler, a preferred social-media platform for the far-right, is back online with Mark Meckler as interim CEO

Parler
Parler is back online.

  • Parler has relaunched with a Tea Party Patriots co-founder at the top.
  • The social-media platform was taken offline by Amazon Web Services in January. 
  • The site, a favorite for the far-right, was found to be a planning hub for Capitol insurrectionists.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Parler, the preferred social media platform for the far-right, announced Monday that it was back online after it was dropped by an Amazon hosting service on January 11. 

The site became a haven for pro-Trump extremists ahead of, and during, the Capitol insurrection. Amazon Web Services (AWS) found that it “poses a very real risk to public safety.”

On Monday, the company announced that site was up and running with a Tea Party co-founder serving as interim CEO. Mark Meckler, an attorney, political activist, and founder of the Tea Party Patriots, replaced former CEO and co-founder John Matze, who was fired by the company’s board earlier this month. 

Read more: How Silicon Valley banished Donald Trump in 48 hours

In a statement Monday, Meckler said, “Parler was built to offer a social media platform that protects free speech and values privacy and civil discourse,” highlighting the platform’s focus on freedom of speech. “Parler is being run by an experienced team and is here to stay. We will thrive as the premier social media platform dedicated to free speech, privacy and civil dialogue,” the statement said. 

According to publicly available WHOIS data, the domain is registered with Epik, which also hosts Gab, another far-right social-media platform. 

A spokesperson did not immediately return Insider’s request for comment.

Parler is largely funded by Rebekah Mercer, a conservative megadonor whose family was among the most influential backers of then-candidate Donald Trump in 2016. Dan Bongino, a conservative activist, has also said he’s a co-owner.

The company came under scrutiny after the Capitol insurrection as evidence emerged that the rioters had used Parler and other platforms to coordinate the attack.

Apple and Google removed Parler from their app stores shortly after the insurrection, saying it had continued to allow content that threatened to escalate violence in violation of their policies. Amazon then removed Parler’s access to its web-hosting services, and other tech companies refused to do business with it, effectively taking the platform offline.

Parler will immediately bring back its current users during the first week of the relaunch and intends to allow new users to sign up the following week, the statement said. 

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Ex-Parler CEO said he didn’t want the platform to work with Trump for fear the president would ‘bully’ employees into doing what he wanted

Matze Trump Parler
Parler CEO John Matze and President Donald Trump, who Matze has said considered making an account on the controversial social-media platform.

  • John Matze, the former CEO of Parler, told Axios on HBO that he did not want to work with Trump.
  • He said we was concerned Trump would “bully” employees into doing what he wanted.
  • BuzzFeed reported Parler offered Trump a 40% stake in exchange for becoming his go-to social media.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

John Matze, the former CEO of Parler, said during an interview with Axios on HBO that he didn’t want the social media platform to work with Donald Trump.

“I didn’t like the idea of working with Trump because he might have bullied people inside the company to do what he wanted,” Matze told Axios during an interview that aired Sunday.

“But I was worried that if we didn’t sign the deal, he might have been vengeful and told his followers to leave Parler,” Matze added.

Parler, which has very limited content moderation, grew in popularity among Trump supporters and far-right figures following the election in November. However, Trump, who frequently complained about Twitter adding fact-check labels to his tweets, never made a verified Parler account.

Read more: How Google finally decided to remove Parler after months of flagging the app’s harmful content

Matze also told Axios he does not know why Trump has not joined the platform, despite being booted off other social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook for violating their terms.

The interview, which took place Thursday, was released following a BuzzFeed News report on Friday that said Parler offered the Trump Organization 40% stake in exchange for Trump making the app his go-to social media platform.

The proposed deal, which was reportedly in talks last summer and after Trump lost the election, also would have required Trump to post on Parler four hours before reposting the content on other platforms, while also linking back to Parler, according to BuzzFeed.

Matze did not mention the specifics of the BuzzFeed report in the interview with Axios but said the negotiations over the summer did not get very far.

Trump’s business interests during his presidency raised questions over whether he was abusing the office of the presidency for personal financial gain.

BuzzFeed reported that the Parler deal could have violated anti-bribery laws because Parler would have given Trump something of value in exchange for control over his official statements, according to ethics experts.

Parler’s board fired Matze from his role as CEO last week, as the app currently remains offline. Following the insurrection at the US Capitol last month, Apple and Google removed the app from their app stores, and Amazon also stopped hosting the app, citing insufficient moderation of violent content.

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Parler offered Trump’s company 40% ownership of the app to make it his go-to social media platform

Matze Trump Parler
Parler ex-CEO John Matze and former President Donald Trump.

  • The Trump Organization held failed talks with Parler to become a part-owner, BuzzFeed News reported.
  • Parler offered a 40% stake in exchange for Trump making the app his go-to social media platform.
  • The talks could have violated anti-bribery laws, ethics experts told BuzzFeed.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Parler and the Trump Organization, negotiating on behalf of then-President Donald Trump, held talks that would have given Trump’s company a major stake in Parler in exchange for the president making it his go-to social media platform, BuzzFeed News reported Friday.

After former Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale raised the idea to Trump last year, Parscale and Alex Cannon, a lawyer for the campaign, got together with Parler’s then-CEO John Matze as well as investors Dan Bongino and Jeffrey Wernick, according to BuzzFeed.

Parler offered Trump’s company a 40% stake, doled out over two years – and in exchange, it wanted to require Trump to post on Parler four hours before reposting his content on other platforms (while also always linking back to Parler), BuzzFeed reported.

According to its report, the talks between Parler and the Trump Organization began last summer and were revisted after Trump lost the election to Joe Biden, but ultimately failed – and it wasn’t clear how involved Trump was in the negotiations.

Parler, the Trump Organization, and Trump’s personal office did not respond to a request for comment.

Read more: 10 huge hits to Trump’s business from the pandemic that may be permanent

Trump’s sprawling business empire – and his refusal to distance himself from it while president – raised broad concerns about whether he was abusing the office to enrich himself.

During the first two years of his presidency, Trump earned $73 million in foreign deals. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, also set up a shell company to secretly pay Trump family members as much as $617 million.

Ethics experts told BuzzFeed News that a deal with Parler would have violated anti-bribery laws because Trump would have received something of value in exchange for Parler getting a say over where Trump made his official statements.

Parler quickly gained popularity among Trump supporters and far-right figures in November following the election due to its lax approach to moderating content, though Trump never made a verified account there.

Read more: Parler has been knocked offline for not moderating threats. Screenshots show what Capitol riot supporters posted before, during, and after the unrest.

But following the Capitol attacks, which rioters planned in large part on Parler, the company faced swift backlash over that approach. Apple and Google removed the app from their app stores, and Amazon cut off web-hosting services to Parler, forcing the platform offline. The companies said Parler had repeatedly refused to remove violent content or adjust its moderation approach to be in line with their policies.

Matze said this week that he was fired by Parler’s board and major investor Rebekah Mercer, a far-right donor that was particularly influential during Trump’s 2016 campaign.

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