John Matze, the CEO of social network Parler, has claimed he has received death threats and “can’t go home,” after the social network was tied to last week’s U.S. Capitol riots and sent offline by Amazon.
Parler markets itself as a haven for free speech, and its hands-off approach to content moderation has made it popular with conservatives, far-right groups and conspiracy theorists, including people who subscribe to QAnon, which is listed as a domestic terrorist threat by the FBI.
On Sunday, Amazon Web Services suspended Parler‘s web hosting account at 23.59 PT, effectively shutting it down. Amazon cited Parler’s refusal to remove extremist and offensive content posted by its users, some of whom are believed to have helped plan and co-ordinate the U.S. Capitol riots, when five people lost their lives. Apple and Google suspended Parler from their app stores on Saturday.
Before Parler went offline, a QAnon propaganda video calling for a “great reawakening” in the U.S. ahead of the January 20 inauguration started gaining traction on the site.
Matze, who has positioned himself as a defender of free speech, told Fox News’ Tucker Carlson on Monday: “People [are] threatening my life. I can’t go home tonight. This is really a lot.” Matze did not say who was threatening his life, or how he was receiving them.
Matze also said that he was shocked by the speed and the manner of Parler‘s blacklisting by Amazon, Apple and Google, who said they took action because of Parler‘s reluctance to moderate hate speech and content that they believe incites violence.
“I’ve theorized about it, we’ve definitely theorized about it. You just never think it will happen though,” he said. “What’s really interesting is that they all did it on the same day, those three, without any prior warning.”
He said he discovered that Parler had been pulled from Google’s Play Store after reading about it on BuzzFeed News.
A spokesperson for Google told Newsweek: “We’re aware of continued posting in the Parler app that seeks to incite ongoing violence in the U.S. We recognize that there can be reasonable debate about content policies and that it can be difficult for apps to immediately remove all violative content, but for us to distribute an app through Google Play we do require that apps implement robust moderation for egregious content.
“In light of this ongoing and urgent public safety threat, we are suspending the app’s listings from the Play Store until it addresses these issues.”
Regarding the bans, Matze said: “That is shocking.” He went on: “The last thing we have right now is email and I bet you within 24 hours our email will be shut off too.”
Matze added: “This is not just our civil liberties, they can shut down a billion-dollar company, half-a-billion dollar company… overnight.”
However, he has said that the site will be back online “one day.” He initially thought that Parler would be down for around a week, but said that it may remain unavailable for significantly longer than that.
“We will be back up eventually because we’re not going to give up. But soon is difficult. I thought immediately: ‘No problem, I’ll call up a new vendor’. We call up the vendor, we’re all good to go and then right at the last second: ‘Sorry, somebody said something and we can’t host you. Bye.’
“And it’s been that one after another ever since then. Right at the last minute they just bail. We’re going to do it. We’re going to be back online one day, and hopefully soon, as soon as possible. But this is a real challenge. We have to build our own infrastructure, our own everything, in order to do it.”
This article was updated with comment from Google.