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Congress is investigating conservative social media service Parler

February 8, 2021, 8:22 PM UTC

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Congress is demanding information from conservative social media service Parler about its financing and ownership as lawmakers investigate the U.S. Capitol riots.

On Monday, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform sent a letter to Jeffrey Wernick, Parler’s chief operating officer, saying it’s concerned about the company’s potential foreign ties as well as an offer it reportedly made to former President Trump while he was still in office about taking a stake in the company.

The committee requested that Parler disclose its ownership, creditors, business agreements with any Russian individual or entity, and communications about the Trump business proposal. 

Parler, which was shut down last month, has a deadline of Feb. 22, at which time Parler should either provide all requested documents or an explanation of why it needs an extension or can’t meet the request. 

“Individuals with ties to the January 6 assault should not—and must not—be allowed to hide behind the veil of anonymity provided by shell companies,” the committee said in its letter.

Parler did not respond to a request for comment.

The congressional committee’s request follows the arrest of numerous Capitol rioters, some of whom were Parler users who made threats on the app in the days leading up to and following the attack, according to the U.S. Justice Department. Parler became popular among Trump supporters after Facebook and Twitter cracked down on hate speech and election misinformation and banned Trump last year.

But after being kicked off Amazon Web Services and Google and Apple app stores for its lax content moderation, Parler went dark and has been struggling to rebuild. The company has not said when, if ever, it expects its website to go back online.

Last week Parler fired CEO John Matze, who claimed he had been met with “constant resistance” to his vision and belief in free speech on the service. Matze said the board, which is led by prominent conservative donor Rebekah Mercer, ousted him on Jan. 29. Parler has since said that Matze mischaracterized his firing, though it hasn’t provided further detail. 

The Mercers, Wernick, and conservative political commentator Dan Bongino have all publicly said they’re investors in Parler. It’s unclear if the company has any other sources of funding or owners.

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