- The Washington Times - Friday, February 5, 2021

The social media platform Parler and its fired CEO John Matze are feuding over whether to adopt new content moderation procedures or adhere to the free speech principles that separated the company from its Big Tech competitors and attracted users to Parler from Twitter and Facebook.

Amazon Web Services took Parler offline in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol amid concerns about the platform’s less restrictive censorship regime fostering digital speech that could lead to physical harm. Apple and Google also removed Parler’s app from their app stores.

Mr. Matze revealed earlier this week that he had been fired and said Friday he is still not sure why he was ousted. He said he had advocated Parler adopt a more “pragmatic” approach to content moderation that involved artificial intelligence and implementing an appeals system for restricted content.

“Having been taken off the Apple [App] Store and taken off the Google Play [Store] and Amazon dropping us, I thought it was probably a good time to start looking at being a little bit more pragmatic while still respecting free speech,” Mr. Matze said on Fox Business Network. “And so my concept was the idea of adding AI and other technologies to the platform to be more proactive especially in times of scaling.” 

Prior to Mr. Matze’s Friday comments, Parler disputed his commentary about the circumstances surrounding his departure in a statement branding him “inaccurate and misleading.” The company did not respond to request for comment on what specifically it found misleading. 

Dan Bongino, a Parler investor and conservative commentator, took to Facebook this week to more fully explain the company’s gripe with Mr. Matze. 

“The relationship with Parler and the CEO did not work out because the CEO’s vision was not ours, everybody clear on that?” said Mr. Bongino in a video on Facebook. “Our vision was crystal clear: We needed to get up and fight back. Some terrible decisions were made in the past that led to this, that led us to getting [put] down by Amazon and others.”

In response to Mr. Bongino, Mr. Matze said Friday he was not sure whether Mr. Bongino’s explanation was accurate and claimed, “He’s never been to the company office and he’s spoken to maybe two employees total.”

“I don’t think you could blame decisions such as Amazon setting an unprecedented statement by banning Parler, I don’t think you can blame that on me,” Mr. Matze said to Fox Business Network. “I think that especially given that we had numerous backups that all dropped us as well, so I don’t think they know what they’re talking about and I think they’re winging this and I think that there’s something else at play and I’m not sure what it is.”

Parler remains largely offline, but Mr. Bongingo told Fox News that the platform is eyeing Monday for a potential larger return to the web.

• Ryan Lovelace can be reached at rlovelace@washingtontimes.com.

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