House Oversight Chairwoman Seeks FBI Probe of Parler Over Jan. 6 Capitol Breach

January 21, 2021 Updated: January 22, 2021

UPDATE: Parler issued a response on Thursday:

According to the company: “Over the past few weeks, Parler has been repeatedly mischaracterized and treated unjustly. But the recent personal attacks on our CEO John, his wife Alina, and their family are reprehensible.”

“Alina, whose working-class family lived in the former Soviet Union, came to America to start her own multi-racial, interfaith family with John. To subject them to baseless accusations that their marriage is part of some twisted espionage scheme—all because she is an immigrant—is precisely the sort of ‘racism, nativism, fear, [and] demonization’ President Biden urged us to reject in his inaugural address.”

The Entire Parler Team stands behind John and Alina. Our new President called for unity: ‘We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal. We can do this, if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts.” The smears against John and Alina are exactly the sort of tactics he is imploring us all to abandon. Let’s all commit to working together toward unity and healing.'”

The House Oversight Committee sent a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray to look into allegations of social media platform Parler’s involvement “related to the violence” on Jan. 6 at the U.S. Capitol.

Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney wrote in a letter dated Jan. 21 that the FBI should carry out a “robust investigation” into whether Parler played a role in the Capitol breach.

Maloney also suggests that the agency investigate whether the social media website is a “potential conduit for foreign governments” after the company retained the services of Russian company DDoS-Guard, ostensibly for traffic rerouting. Parler’s full social media website isn’t back online, and just a simple landing page is up, with messages from CEO John Matze, Fox News’ Sean Hannity, syndicated radio host Mark Levin, and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).

Officials at Parler didn’t immediately respond to a request by The Epoch Times for comment.

Maloney said that “questions have also been raised about Parler’s financing” as well as its “ties to Russia,” claiming that Parler was founded by Matze “shortly after he traveled to Russia with his wife,” who is a Russian national and “whose family reportedly has ties with the Russian government.”

Matze previously The Epoch Times that he condemned people using Parler for violence and pushed back against claims that his company didn’t take responsibility for content posted on the site. Later, Matze said that he “has had to leave his home and go into hiding with his family after receiving death threats and invasive personal security breaches,” reads a court filing this month.

Maloney’s letter also noted Parler’s retention of DDoS-Guard’s services after Parler was de-platformed from Amazon Web Services (AWS) earlier this month, while she claimed that the company has ties to the Russian government and “hosts the websites of other far-right extremist groups.” DDoS-Guard recently confirmed it stopped providing services to 8kun, a website previously known as 8chan, earlier this month.

DDoS-Guard, which is based in Rostov-on-Don, confirmed to The Epoch Times on Jan. 20 that Parler is using its services, although it noted that Parler “does not use the hosting service” provided by the company.

“DDoS-Guard responsibly keeps customer data without disclosing it to third parties. Moreover, the provider stores only information required for the service and explicitly provided by the customers,” the firm added.

Jeffrey Wernick, Parler’s chief operating officer, told The New York Times that DDoS-Guard is only supporting the company’s temporary web page used for updates.

“Our preference is to have an American firm,” he said this week. “People should not make conclusions that it’ll be this company. People extrapolate too much and with limited information. They conclude what they want to conclude. I call that spreading misinformation.”

Last week, Google and Facebook officials were questioned over the role their platforms potentially played in the Jan. 6 breach of the Capitol.

“Like with elections four years ago and the potential for foreign interference, we are constantly learning from these moments, and the internet, I think, as a whole needs to come to terms with what kind of information can spread, and it’s definitely more to do from all our sides,” Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai said.

Parler
The Parler logo displayed on a smartphone with its website in the background, in a file photo. (Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images)

A Facebook spokeswoman told reporters on Twitter that CEO Sheryl Sandberg “began by noting these events were organized online, including on our platforms—with the clear suggestion we have a role.

“She was making the point, which has been made by many journalists and academics, that our crackdowns on QAnon, militia, and hate groups has meant large amounts of activity has migrated to other platforms with fewer rules and enforcement,” the spokeswoman added.

Following Amazon’s actions, Parler’s executives and civil liberties groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF) expressed concerns that big tech companies have too much power over discourse.

“Whatever you think of Parler, these decisions should give you pause. Private companies have strong legal rights under U.S. law to refuse to host or support speech they don’t like. But that refusal carries different risks when a group of companies comes together to ensure that forums for speech or speakers are effectively taken offline altogether,” the EFF wrote on Jan. 11.

“When the crisis has passed, pressure on basic infrastructure, as a tactic, will be reused, inevitably, against unjustly marginalized speakers and forums. This is not a slippery slope, nor a tentative prediction—we have already seen this happen to groups and communities that have far less power and resources than the president of the United States and the backers of his cause,” the EFF said about former President Donald Trump’s accounts being deleted from Twitter, Facebook, and more.

“And this facility for broad censorship will not be lost on foreign governments who wish to silence legitimate dissent either. Now that the world has been reminded that infrastructure can be commandeered to make decisions to control speech, calls for it will increase, and principled objections may fall to the wayside.”

Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.