In an internal memo to staffers on Wednesday, Parler CEO John Matze announced that he has been effectively terminated by the company’s board following public outcry over the platform’s role in inciting a deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol.
“On January 29, 2021, the Parler board controlled by Rebekah Mercer decided to immediately terminate my position as CEO of Parler. I did not participate in this decision,” Matze wrote. “I understand that those who now control the company have made some communications to employees and other third parties that have unfortunately created confusion and prompted me to make this public statement.”
Parler — and Matze in particular — had been dogged by criticism in recent weeks over repeated failures to moderate content on the self-professed “free speech” platform favored by militias and members of the alt-right.
At the same time rioters and insurrectionists were descending on the Capitol on January 6 to protest what had been mendaciously referred to by Trump administration as a “stolen” election, they were also flocking to Parler to post photos and videos of themselves at the scene.
Matze, who considers himself a steward of free speech, declined to offer adequate condemnations of the violence when it mattered, and less than a week after the attack on the Capitol, Parler had been blacklisted by Apple and Google, who yanked the platform from their app stores, and Amazon, who booted the company from its web hosting services.
During an appearance on Fox News that same week, Matze told Tucker Carlson that he was shocked by the speed of the blowback, and that he had personally suffered at the hands of those who believed he was singlehandedly playing a small role in fraying whatever stray thread of sanity the country had left in it.
“People [are] threatening my life,” he said. “I can’t go home tonight. This is really a lot.”
In Wednesday’s staff memo, Matze reiterated that he had met “constant resistance to my product vision, my strong belief in free speech and my view of how the Parler site should be managed” in recent months, particularly in light of his approach (or lack thereof) to effective content moderation.
Here’s the rest of Matze’s statement:
I have worked endless hours and fought constant battles to get the Parler site running but at this point, the future of Parler is no longer in my hands. I want to thank the Parler employees, the people on Parler and Parler supporters for their tireless work and devotion to the company. They are an amazing group of diverse, hardworking and talented individuals and I have the utmost respect for them. Many of them have become my second family.
Although the platform has been down ever since it got the boot from Amazon Web Services last month, Parler had planned to relaunch at the beginning of February, but had been met with a series of delays. Although it remains to be seen what new, evil form Parler will return in, Matze confirmed in his memo that he will take a few weeks off before looking for a new, evil gig to sink his resources into.
“I’ll be looking for new opportunities where my technical acumen, vision and the causes I am passionate about will be required and respected,” he wrote. “I want to thank all the people of Parler that supported me and the platform. This has been the true American Dream: an idea from a living room to a company of considerable value. I’m not saying goodbye, just so long for now.”