The board of Parler, a social network favored by conservatives and Trump supporters due to its “free speech” platform, fired CEO John Matze last Friday. The move came amid a dispute over the direction of the website, which remains outlawed by Amazon, Google and Apple who have had a history of censoring, fact-checking and deleting conservative viewpoints.
Matze, who co-founded the platform in 2018, claimed that he was terminated from the company as it was just days away from restoring more service. Internally, he had been pushing for greater “product stability,” The Wall Street Journal reported.
Matze said he sought to alter Parler’s moderation to help meet the demands of Google and Apple. Parler was removed from their stores last month over an alleged “failure to police user content”, although the platform had rules and regulations for what was tolerated and what would warrant a strike or an individual’s removal from the site.
A memo sent by Matze to Parler’s remaining staff said he was met with “constant resistance” to his product vision and belief in free speech, adding he had been advocating for a “more effective approach” to user content moderation.
It remains unclear what that was, but in legal filings submitted as part of a lawsuit with Amazon Web Services (AWS), which failed, Matze indicated that he was exploring the use of back-end algorithms that could seek out and flag unwanted material.
“I have worked endless hours and fought constant battles to get the Parler site running but at this point, the future of Parler is no longer in my hands,” Matze wrote.
The Parler board is controlled by conservative donor Rebekah Mercer, the daughter of hedge-fund investor Robert Mercer and a backer of right-wing causes.
The former CEO’s account was disputed by Parler investor Dan Bongino, who posted a Facebook video on Wednesday that accused Matze of making “some terrible decisions” and suggested the former’s CEO claims following his firing were “not true.”
Bongino said the relationship between Matze and the board faltered because the CEO’s vision did not align with the other members of leadership. “This free speech vision? That was ours. The other owners in the company,” Bongino said.
“Our vision was crystal clear, we needed to get up and fight back,” Bongino noted while referring to the site’s removal from the web by the trio of tech firms last month.
“To get kneecapped like this from someone we trusted is a disgrace,” he added about Matze. “He is no white knight in this story… that story you are hearing is not true.”
While not explicitly said, it appeared that Bongino and others who have a say in Parler decisions could not agree on the apparent plans to concede to moderation demands made by Apple, Google and AWS—a move could have restored the app.
For now, Parler’s full website remains offline, replaced by a static web page. It’s unclear if the platform will ever return.