Parler CEO ousted as the conservative social network struggles to rebuild

February 4, 2021, 1:10 AM UTC

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Parler CEO John Matze has been fired just weeks after the conservative social network went dark.

Matze, who confirmed his firing on LinkedIn, sent a note to Parler employees announcing that the board, led by prominent conservative donor Rebekah Mercer, had terminated him on Jan. 29.

The move comes just three weeks after Parler was taken offline by Amazon Web Services, along with Google, and Apple’s app stores, for failing to moderate violent content and hate speech amid the U.S. Capitol riots on Jan. 6. Trump supporters had flocked to the service in the run up to the presidential election, angry at other social networks for what they described as censoring of conservative voices.

In his letter obtained by Fox Business, Matze told employees he’s met “constant resistance” to his vision and belief in free speech on Parler. Some of that resistance was in response to his suggestions for more effective content moderation, he said without disclosing any details. He also reportedly said he plans to take a few weeks off before taking his next steps. 

“I have worked endless hours and fought constant battles to get the Parler site running but at this point, the future of Parler is no longer in my hands,” the note reads.

Parler did not respond to a request for comment. 

Parler, which promoted itself as a protector of free speech, had become embroiled in controversy after allowing users to spread conspiracy theories, reiterate election misinformation, and make hateful comments. Trump supporters openly planned the riots on social media platforms including Paler, then posted videos on the service from the siege. 

Following the Capitol riots, Matze and his family had gone into hiding after receiving death threats and security breaches, according to documents part of a now dead antitrust lawsuit Parler filed against AWS. Since then, he’s disappeared from the spotlight.

Parler has been working to get back online after going dark on Jan. 11. The social network had reregistered its domain with Epik and set up a quick website that promises users it will “resolve any challenge before us” and plans to “welcome all of you back soon.” 

Matze last posted on the website on Jan. 26 with a meme seemingly poking fun at the slow progress of Parler’s return. The meme shows the viral picture of Sen. Bernie Sanders in his mittens at Joe Biden’s inauguration and says, “I wish that John guy would hurry up already.” And two days before, Matze used the website to call for unity. 

“We should, in the spirit of Parley, place aside our differences, place aside our biases of one another, and have a respectful conversation in order to improve our society,” he said. “We shall check our baggage at the door, and start fresh with one another.”

It’s unclear what direction Parler is headed next or who will lead it. But just two weeks ago, the company appeared to support Matze, defending him against the personal attacks the CEO claims to have received. “The Entire Parler Team stands behind John and Alina [Matze’s wife],” the post said. “Let’s all commit to working together toward unity and healing.”

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