Last month, conservative social media site Parler fired John Matze, its CEO, and founder. His exit was abrupt and sources claim that he was also stripped involuntarily of his entire stake in the company. Here’s everything you need to know about this acrimonious firing.
After the January 6 breach on the U.S Capitol, Parler was knocked off its web host Amazon Web Services for failing to stem the flood of violent, hateful speech. Matze then went head-to-head with co-founder Rebekkah Mercer about how the site should move forward given the nature of the incendiary content posted by its users. While this battle was going on, Parler was valued at $1 billion and had more than 12 million users. Matze claims that his firing was brought about by his proposal to clamp down on domestic terrorists and conspiracy theories circulated by the pro-Trump group QAnon. However, Parler officials have vehemently denied this.
To understand the role of Rebekkah Mercer in all this, it’s necessary to go back to when Parler was founded in 2018. At the time, Mercer became Parler’s financier and the platform was conceived as a right-wing friendly alternative to Twitter. Mercer reportedly stayed out of company decisions even as she wielded a lot of political power and played a crucial role in the election of former President Donald Trump in 2016. However, when Matze was fired, Mercer appointed Mark Meckler and took on a more concrete role in the company. She will likely shape its future. Parler is now back online, thanks to Los Angeles-area web infrastructure company SkySilk.
The platform is currently neck-deep in a lawsuit against Amazon and Amazon Web service. Parler attorney Angelo Calfo claimed that AWS shut Parler down not because of a breach of contract but because it did not want the platform to compete with other microblogging platforms online and wanted to silence conservative voices. Amazon has denied this accusation. Experts agree that a CEO losing his stake in the company he started is very rare. If Matze challenges his termination in a court of law, he will have to provide evidence that Mercer had “cause” to fire him.