Representative Carolyn Maloney (DN.Y.), chairwoman, said the request was a step towards opening a formal commission inquiry into sites that could promote violence, including Parler. It became known last year as a free alternative to Twitter, gaining popularity, especially among conservatives.
She said the commission would launch its formal investigation into Parler and similar sites, and that it was a “top priority” for it to learn answers to a number of questions about Parler, including its alleged ties to Russia, as documented in news reports. Her letter Thursday cited Parler̵
“I’m going to get to the bottom of who owns and funds social media platforms like Parler that justify and create violence,” Maloney told The Washington Post.
Parler officials did not respond immediately to a request for comment after Maloney’s office published its letter to FBI Director Christopher Ray. Earlier, the company defended its work with posts related to the attack on the Capitol, and accused those who wanted to download it offline, in violation of its right to freedom of speech.
Earlier, Parler described his ownership and leadership as US-based, with investors including Conservative financier Rebecca Mercer and commentator Dan Bongino. He hired DDoS-Guard to protect him from cyberattacks after Amazon Web Services stopped Parler for inadequate moderation policies, citing in a legal statement that he considered the site’s “reluctance and inability” to remove content, “incitement and planning the rape, torture, and murder of designated government officials and private citizens. “
The move rejected Parler offline, further obscuring its future after Apple and Google also removed it from their app stores for similar policy violations. He is struggling to get back online, but his staff has vowed to do so.
“Our return is inevitable due to hard work and perseverance against all chances. Despite the threats and harassment, no Parler employees left. We are getting closer and stronger as a team, “CEO John Matze wrote in a post Monday. As noted in the letter from Maloney, Matze is married to a Russian woman, a fact previously noted in numerous news reports that raised the issue without documenting improper influence on the company.
Conservative commentators Mark Levin and Sean Hannity, along with Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), posted words of support, but the site as a whole remained down on Thursday morning.
The Malone’s letter called on the bureau to “conduct an in-depth investigation into the role that the social media site Parler played in the attack, including as a host and potential facilitator of violence-related planning and incitement.”
The FBI has no immediate comment on the request.
DDoS-Guard officials, who did not respond immediately to a request for comment on Thursday, said in a statement Tuesday, “At present, Parler.com does not violate either our Eligibility Policy or current U.S. law at best. “
Congress has broad powers to take an interest in private companies, but Parler and other social media sites also enjoy broad legal immunity for what others post on their platforms through section 230 of the Communications Integrity Act. Although there is ample evidence of hate speech before the Capitol attack and calls for violence against members of Congress, it was made by Parler users – many aliased – a fact that limits Parler’s responsibility for them.
The company, based in Henderson, Nevada, and founded in 2018, has committed to moderate moderation, using user panels to view potentially problematic publications, while presenting itself as a haven for freedom of speech in a time of growing restrictions and imposing major platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.
Parler refused to remove accounts related to Russian influence operations documented in October by research firm Graphika, saying no government agency had requested it.
Maloney wrote in his letter: “The company was founded by John Matze shortly after he traveled to Russia with his Russian wife, whose family has ties to the Russian government. Concerns about the company’s ties to Russia have grown since the company reappeared on the Russian hosting service DDoS-Guard. “
She wrote that the Russian company “has ties to the Russian government and hosts the websites of other far-right extremist groups, as well as the terrorist group Hamas.”
DDOS-Guard stopped protecting Hamas’ website in November, according to the SITE Intelligence Group.
A new congress is still being formed, but Maloney has made it clear in an interview with The Post that studying Parler is a priority for the investigative oversight committee. Maloney has a long-standing interest in possible foreign support for American companies. In December, the legislation it has been defending for years was passed in a law that will require more disclosure for shell companies.
The new law will require shell companies to provide the names of their owners or face severe penalties and prison sentences. The Corporate Transparency Act provides for information on shell companies to be kept in a confidential database, accessible to federal law enforcement agencies and shared with banks, which are often involuntary accomplices in international corruption and terrorism.