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Parler, A Social Media Platform That Stands For Free Speech, Temporarily Blocked Its Founder

“I know it’s a ban because I know how the architecture works. I can’t log in anymore.”

Posted on February 19, 2021, at 3:35 p.m. ET

Sopa Images / LightRocket via Getty Images

Parler, the social media site popular among conservatives, appeared to have banned its cofounder and former CEO on Friday before restoring his access later in the day.

John Matze, whom Parler's management fired earlier this month, told BuzzFeed News that he believed he had been banned after making several posts and comments on the platform earlier this week.

Screenshots that Matze shared on a Telegram channel showed that his account had been made “private” on Friday after he'd made a post asking his 722,000 Parler followers what they thought the “fair market value” of the company was. Earlier this week, he had made a post on Parler asking followers to join him on Telegram, a popular messaging app.

John Matze / Telegram

A screenshot posted by former Parler CEO John Matze shows that the social network had made his account "private" for an unspecified reason.

When BuzzFeed News attempted to communicate with the handle, it received a message that the account had been “blocked.”

“I know it’s a ban because I know how the architecture works,” Matze told BuzzFeed News over text. “I can’t log in anymore.”

After BuzzFeed News contacted a Parler spokesperson about the situation, the social network unblocked the account, according to Matze, who provided a screenshot. The spokesperson did not provide any comment.

Parler grew in popularity at the end of 2020, drawing conservatives by positioning itself as a “free speech” alternative to Twitter and Facebook. With little content moderation, the site, which had a reported 15 million users by the time it went offline last month, became a hub for conspiracy theories, hate speech, and incitement of violence. Parler relaunched on Monday, having been offline for weeks after Amazon cut off its cloud hosting services because had spread content that glorified the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.

In other comments made on Friday before he was banned, Matze commended former colleagues for “doing a great job” in getting Parler back online, telling them to “keep killing.”

Matze declined to comment on the meaning of his post about the company’s valuation. He was fired earlier this month by Rebekah Mercer, cofounder and majority shareholder of Parler. His firing followed high-profile bans of the company from Apple and Google, which removed it from their app stores, as well as Amazon.

The three companies said they had cut off relationships with Parler for its failure to moderate hate speech and the glorification of violence following the events of Jan. 6, when Trump supporters stormed the Capitol. Matze told the Wall Street Journal that he had been fired for trying to implement more content moderation to get Parler back into the app stores.

In a statement earlier this month, Amy Peikoff, chief policy officer at Parler, called Matze’s characterization of his termination “misleading” but did not say what was inaccurate.

BuzzFeed News previously reported that Parler executives and advisers were in negotiations to offer a 40% stake to the Trump Organization to secure Donald Trump's exclusive participation. Negotiations for the deal continued through late last year but stopped after the insurrection led to Parler’s temporary collapse and Trump’s suspension and bans from Facebook and Twitter.

“We have spoken to several people about potential stakes in the company for producing certain things,” Parler investor and adviser Jeffrey Wernick told BuzzFeed News earlier this month.

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