In a letter to House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Parler accused “Big Tech” of waging a “coordinated and widespread disinformation campaign” against the platform intended to “scapegoat” it for the deadly riot.
“Far from being the far-right instigator and rogue company that Big Tech has portrayed Parler to be, the facts conclusively demonstrate that Parler has been a responsible and law-abiding company focused on ensuring that only free and lawful speech exists on its platform,” Parler’s attorneys Michael S. Dry and Ephraim “Fry” Wernick wrote in the letter.
From December to the weeks leading up to the Capitol riot, Parler fostered a working relationship with the FBI and alerted the agency to many posts that appeared to encourage or plan violence, according to emails and other documents.
Some of the posts called for killing government officials and their families, including one from a user who said he would kill President Biden. Another user called for “not just a peaceful march” on January 6 in Washington, saying “I want to start eliminating people.” Yet another lengthier post called for an “armed force” of 150,000 “American Patriots” to be “prepared to react to the congressional events of January 6th.”
“Concerned about Wednesday…” read one message from Parler to the FBI, referring to January 6, when Congress was scheduled to convene to confirm President Biden’s election victory.
While most of the posts Parler brought to the FBI’s attention appear to be from right-wing users, one of the posts came from a user who appeared to offer bounties for the killing of Trump family members and members of the far-right group the Proud Boys.
“See a trump, [skull and coffin emojis] a trump. Freedom riders take notice. Pays 80k-1M depending on which trump it is,” the post read. “5k for anyone with proud boy tattoo.”
In one email, an individual from the FBI thanked Parler for its efforts and apologized for making a redundant emergency disclosure request on a specific Parler user.
“It appears that you have already sent the FBI subscriber results for this user. I sincerely apologize to bombard you with unnecessary emails, as you are already so busy!!” the email stated. “We appreciate all that you are doing and I’m greatly sorry.”
Since the riot, FBI officials have said they received no specific, credible threats beforehand about potential violence at the Capitol on January 6. FBI Director Christopher Wray told NPR last week that his agency had directed all of its field offices beforehand to be on the lookout for information related to any threats.
“What we did not have, as far as I can tell, is any indication that hundreds and hundreds of people were going to breach the U.S. Capitol,” Wray said.
Despite the platform’s coordination with the FBI, Democrats on the House Oversight Committee took aim at Parler in the wake of the violence, opening an investigation into Parler and its connection to the riot. Last month, the committee demanded documents and information related to Parler’s financing and potential ties to foreign entities.
Meanwhile, Facebook came under scrutiny from watchdog groups for questionable activity on its much larger platform leading up to the riot. Some even accused the mammoth social media company of bearing much more of the blame for the violence that unfolded at the Capitol.
“If you took Parler out of the equation, you would still almost certainly have what happened at the Capitol,” Angelo Carusone, president and CEO of watchdog Media Matters, told Salon in the days following the riot. “If you took Facebook out of the equation before that, you would not. To me, when Apple and Google sent their letter to Parler, I was a little bit confused why Facebook didn’t get one.”
By the Saturday morning three days after the riot, Parler had risen to the number one slot in Apple’s App Store, less than 24 hours after Twitter permanently suspended former President Trump’s personal account from its platform.
Parler’s fortunes quickly reversed, however. By the next day, the company’s future was in doubt after Apple and Google removed Parler’s mobile app from their app stores and Amazon informed the platform that it was booting Parler from its web-hosting service over its alleged failure to implement an acceptable content moderation policy.
Parler went offline that Sunday, January 10, and remained unavailable for over a month until February 15, when the company announced it was relaunching its site and was back online using “robust, sustainable, independent technology.”
In the company’s letter to the oversight committee, Parler also attempted to put to bed several other accusations against the company, saying that it has always been American-owned and has never engaged in any collusion with “the Russians.” The company also denied ever offering former President Trump an ownership interest in Parler.
Parler added that it “has always recognized that there are legal limitations on free speech” and called on Congress to investigate the actions that the larger tech companies took against Parler in the days following the Capitol riot. ✪