- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Parler, the budding social media service touting itself as an alternative to Twitter, will not ban users for posting hate speech, its CEO said in an interview Wednesday.

Speaking to the conservative-leaning CNSNews site, CEO John Matze reasoned there is no legal definition for hate speech and therefore Parler cannot prohibit it.

“We refuse to ban people on something so arbitrary that it can’t be defined,” Mr. Matze said.

“So how do you define the undefinable? You can’t. The government has tried; they couldn’t. The only countries that have have had very arbitrary rules that are rather weak and hard to enforce,” Mr. Matze said. “And so you see these sites trying to enforce these arbitrary rules and you notice that people are getting kicked off for the most random and arbitrary things like misgendering people. It’s absurd. So no, we won’t be pursuing that policy. “

Mr. Matze, who helped launch Parler in 2018, added the platform’s current user guidelines are “really awkward” and in the process of being overhauled by a lawyer, however.

Parler has recently exploded in popularity largely as a result of being lauded by conservatives opposed to competing platform Twitter and its stricter policies. Media personality Dan Bongino announced in June he was a part-owner of Parler, and fellow Republicans who have recently joined the platform include Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan and New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, among others.

“Anything that you can say on the street in New York, you can say on Parler, and the goal is to create conversation, not to dismantle conversation, to allow debate, conversation in general,” Mr. Matze said during the interview.

Indeed, Parler’s current rules for users, its Community Guidelines, are comparably lax to policies in place by competing platforms. Twitter, for example, prohibits users from misgendering others or treating anyone “less than human” on the basis of age, disability or disease.

And while Parler does not prohibit hate speech at this point, its guidelines do include some, albeit limited, rules about what and cannot be posted by its users. The guidelines ask users not to use language or share images that are “sexual in nature” or “offensive and offer no literacy, artistic, political or scientific value.”

Parler users are also instructed to avoid using “fighting words,” which the guidelines describe as “incitements to violence that produce a clear and present danger or a personal assault with the intention of inviting the other party to fisticuffs.”

Under the “fighting words” section of Parler’s guidelines, users are asked not to suggest others should die or be attacked, as well to avoid advocating physically attacking anyone or “symbolically” suggesting someone should be hurt or killed.

“Use your words to express your opinions without the use or threat of violence,” the section reads in part.

In the interview, Mr. Matze said Parlier “just hired a chief policy officer who’s a real lawyer and not me writing the community guidelines, and she’s actually overhauling that specific clause … because she said it’s a really awkward clause to have” in the guidelines.

“There’s lines that we’re trying to draw, but we also want people to have conversation,” he added. “And naturally, as you know, online arguments typically get people angry and using what would be described as ‘fighting words’ on the street, but not online. And so we’re trying to clarify that to make sure that people don’t end up in some kind of cyber jail over, you know, an online debate or dispute got heated, if that makes sense.”

Parler recently surpassed 3.3 million total users now, including 2.3 million who joined within a single month, according to Mr. Matze.

Twitter comparably average roughly 330 million monthly active users in 2019, according to the company. Facebook has placed its number of active users in the billions.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide