Parler responded to a voluntary request for information from Congress by saying it is the subject of a “coordinated and widespread disinformation campaign” by Big Tech to scapegoat it for the January 6 Capitol riot, and also saying that it began referring violent content to the FBI before the Capitol riot.
On Feb. 8, House Oversight and Reform Committee Chair Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) wrote to Parler, demanding that the company provide “information related to Parler’s financing and potential ties to foreign entities,” and claiming that it had “allowed Russian disinformation to flourish on its platform prior to the November 2020 election.” She also asked for all documents “relating to a [reported] proposal to provide President Donald Trump with an ownership stake in Parler.” The demand also cites a USA Today analysis that purports to show that there was a “strong” connection between President Trump’s January 6 speech and an uptick of calls for violence on Parler.
In a 12-page reply Thursday, the company’s attorneys vociferously hammered back at those allegations, stating that “the Company is and always has been American-owned and controlled; Parler has never engaged in any collusion with ‘the Russians’; and Parler never offered President Donald J. Trump an ownership interest in the Company.”
They added: “The Committee’s interest in Parler appears to stem from a coordinated and widespread disinformation campaign designed to scapegoat Parler for the riots at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, and to justify Big Tech’s unlawful and anticompetitive decision to de-platform Parler.” (The latter claim refers to a decision by Amazon in January to kick Parler off its web hosting service, and a similar decision by Apple to block Parler from its App Store.)
Parler’s attorneys then set out to “set the record straight” on what they called “the positive role Parler played in the days and weeks leading up to January 6th,” claiming that despite “Big Tech’s scapegoating of Parler,” the company actually helped the FBI.
They wrote (original emphasis):
In fact, in the days and weeks leading up to January 6th, Parler referred violent content from its platform to the FBI for investigation over 50 times, and Parler even alerted law enforcement to specific threats of violence being planned at the Capitol.
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. It is thus time for Big Tech’s scapegoating of Parler to stop and for Congress to start investigating the real story here: how Big Tech giants colluded to destroy a small start-up company just as it began to pose a credible threat to their dominance on social media.
The letter also included a screenshot of an email Parler sent to the FBI on January 2 warning that a user had posted “a picture of Hillary Clinton behind a noose,” and noted that the company had forwarded several posts in which violence was specifically threatened toward the Capitol.
“The FBI understood the strain that the Company was under and thanked Parler for its efforts to help law enforcement especially under such difficult circumstances for the Company,” the lawyers argued.
In support of its claim that it has been unfairly targeted, Parler pointed out that other social media companies, like Facebook, were far more directly tied to the Capitol riot (original emphasis, footnotes omitted):
It is now well-documented and understood by honest observers that incitement occurred far more frequently on Big Tech platforms like Facebook and Twitter than Parler. An independent analysis by Forbes found that in over 200 charging documents filed by the Department of Justice in connection with the Capitol riot, Facebook was far and away the most utilized social media platform by rioters on January 6th. Of the charging documents analyzed, 73 included references to posts on Facebook, 24 referenced YouTube, and 20 referenced Instagram. In contrast, there were only eight referencing Parler. Our updated review and analysis of 270 charging documents collected by the George Washington University’s Program on Extremism reveals that over 54% of the charging documents reference Facebook, 13% reference Twitter, and nearly 13% reference Instagram, yet only about 5% reference Parler.
The attorneys noted that there had been discussions between Parler and the Trump Organization (and not the president himself) about the possibility of the latter taking an ownership stake, but that they were “terminated early-on before an agreement was reached.”
(Disclosure: Rebekah Mercer, who owns a majority of Parler, is separately a minority owner of Breitbart News Network, LLC.)
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.