Boy what a tangled skein of yarn this is. Parler, which was started by now-fired CEO John Matze and controlled by Rebekah Mercer, offered then-president Donald Trump a 40% stake in the company, if he would use it as his primary social network, meaning that he would post first to Parler and then four hours or more later post to Twitter, Facebook, what have you. This could have violated anti-bribery laws, because Twitter and Facebook were used to make official presidential communications — the many firings by Twitter and Trump’s lengthy Facebook screed about the stolen election being two prime examples. So seeking to make money for making these posts exclusive to a platform on which Trump owned a 40% stake could have been legally problematic, to say the least. Buzzfeed News:
Kathleen Clark, a law professor at the Washington University in St. Louis, said that, had the deal gone through while Trump was still in office, both Parler and the president could have been in violation of anti-bribery laws. […]
“I think it would have actually violated the bribery statute in that he would have been offered something of value — a stake in this company — in exchange for influencing an official act — the act of where to publish his official comments,” Clark said.
It sure sounds Trumpian, doesn’t it? Publish official comments and get paid for it too, by your own social media company? That’s just on the face of it. The fact that Parler is a cesspool of extreme right-wing violent rhetoric, such that it was banned by Amazon, and the app was banned by Google and Apple, further escalates the outrage of such a place being a business pursuit by a sitting U.S. president. Again, vintage Trump.
Scott Amey, general counsel at the Project on Government Oversight, a nonpartisan watchdog group, said the news warranted “an immediate criminal investigation.” A company’s mere act of offering a stake for the president’s participation looks unethical and deserves further scrutiny, he noted.
“While then-president Trump bragged that ethics rules didn’t apply to him, bribery laws do apply, and courts have held that Trump’s social media posts constituted official business while he was in office,” Amey said. “His posts were a preferred method for the White House to communicate with the public. If the offer included anything of value, and Trump planned to post on a social media platform while he was still in office, that would almost certainly be illegal, and he should be held accountable.”
Discussions to bring Trump onto Parler were ultimately derailed by the events of Jan. 6. After months of casting doubt on election results and calling for violence on social media platforms, the president’s supporters stormed the US Capitol. Some posted pictures or videos of their exploits to Parler, which had become a breeding ground for organizing hate and threats ahead of the riot.
And take a look at this. Former CEO Matze was apparently terminated because he wanted to clean up Parler.
Matze, who said he was fired as Parler CEO last week by Mercer, told the Journal that before he was fired he had tried to implement more content moderation so that Apple and Google would allow the app back into their app stores. He said his suggestion to ban groups based on affiliations with designated domestic terrorism organizations was ultimately resisted by the board. […]
While it struggled to gain traction in its early months, it soon became a home for conservative and far-right personalities who had been suspended or banned from mainstream social media. By late 2020, it had become a go-to online gathering place for hate groups, conspiracy theorists, and believers in the QAnon mass delusion, as well as prominent Republican lawmakers, including Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Devin Nunes. […]
As part of the agreement, Parler wanted Trump to make it his primary social network. According to the documents, Trump would have had to post all his social content — including daily posts, video, and livestreaming — on Parler for at least four hours before putting it on any other platform.
As part of the deal, Parler also asked that Trump link back to Parler when posting to other social media sites or emailing his supporters, and to allow the company to use his email lists to promote its platform. In addition, Parler wanted Trump to make introductions to any potential investors or advertisers.
If this deal had gone through, Parler was all set up to be not only the official mouthpiece of Trump world, but of right-wingnuttia itself. Then January 6 and the insurrection came, and over the dead bodies, smashed windows and feces smeared floors of the Capitol, it was decided by Twitter, Google, Apple, and Amazon to take the steps that they took. Facebook still has Trump on suspension, so the ultimate disposition of that issue has not yet been decided.
In the meantime, it looks like Parler is QAnon Central and that says everything that you need to know.