Parler CEO John Matze fired by Rebekah Mercer-controlled board

Jessica Guynn, USA TODAY
·3 min read

Parler has fired its chief executive after the social media platform was taken offline last month over its role in the Capitol riots.

John Matze told the Wall Street Journal he was fired last Friday by the company’s board of directors, which is controlled by conservative political donor Rebekah Mercer.

“Over the past few months, I’ve met constant resistance to my product vision, my strong belief in free speech and my view of how the Parler site should be managed,” he said in a statement. “For example, I advocated for more product stability and what I believe is a more effective approach to content moderation.”

In a memo to Parler staffers obtained by Fox News, Matze wrote: “On January 29, 2021, the Parler board controlled by Rebekah Mercer decided to immediately terminate my position as CEO of Parler. I did not participate in this decision.”

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In a statement to USA TODAY, Parler's chief policy officer Amy Peikoff said "Mr. Matze’s characterizations of the events and circumstances surrounding his termination from the Parler CEO position have been inaccurate and misleading."

"The owners and managers of the company worked tirelessly to build a resilient, non-partisan platform dedicated to freedom of expression, civil discourse, and user privacy. That has been and continues to be our vision, and any assertions to the contrary are false, as can be shown by the record and evidence," Peikoff said. "We are continuing to move forward with our relaunch and look forward to welcoming everyone back very soon."

A USA TODAY text analysis published this week showed that calls for civil war intensified on Parler as former President Donald Trump urged his followers to march on the Capitol.

The conservative-friendly social network Parler was booted off the internet Jan. 11, over ties to last week's siege on the U.S. Capitol, but not before hackers made off with an archive of its posts, including any that might have helped organize or document the riot.
The conservative-friendly social network Parler was booted off the internet Jan. 11, over ties to last week's siege on the U.S. Capitol, but not before hackers made off with an archive of its posts, including any that might have helped organize or document the riot.

Billing itself as a "free speech" alternative to Facebook and Twitter with much looser rules around what people can say on the service, Parler says it grew to 15 million users in the months after the presidential election after conservatives fled major social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter over their handling of voter fraud claims by Trump and their suspensions of the former president's accounts.

Matze and Jared Thomson started the platform in 2018 and named it after the French word “to speak.” Investors include Mercer and media personality Dan Bongino.

As Facebook and Twitter cracked down on election-related falsehoods last year, pro-Trump Republicans and conservatives gravitated to Parler, where Donald Trump Jr., Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani held court.

Violent chatter on Parler before and after the Capitol attack has since prompted Amazon to stop hosting the service. Apple and Google also removed Parler from their app stores.

Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, D-N.Y., has asked the FBI to investigate Parler's role in the Jan. 6 attack. Parler's domain as of last week was registered with Epik, which also hosts right-leaning social media app Gab. A Russian firm, DDos-Guard, owns the IP address.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Capitol riot: Parler CEO fired by Rebekah Mercer-controlled board