Parler CEO says site will come back with better content moderation

The log of social media website Parler. (Image: Handout/Graphic by The Desk)

The head of embattled social media company Parler said his website will come back stronger than ever — and when it does, the company will have better content moderation tools in place to deal with problematic content.

John Matze, the chief executive of Parler, made the comments in an interview with Fox News on Tuesday, nearly two days after his website was forced offline following a decision by tech company Amazon to pull its server and cloud storage support.

Amazon’s decision came after Parler — which operates as a less-restrictive clone of Twitter — was accused of providing a platform for incendiary, violent content both before and after last week’s riot at the U.S. Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump.

Five people died as a direct result of the attack, including a police officer.

Parler rejected any connection to the attack, but its reputation as a favorite among right-wing fanatics — the same type of individuals who participated in the riot — prompted a large public outcry that ultimately provoked tech giants to distance themselves from it.

Last week, Google and Apple announced they would no longer distribute Parler’s app in their online software stores. Other vendors also dropped Parler as a client, but none had a more consequential effect than Amazon’s decision to stop allowing Parler to use its Amazon Web Services product, which forced the social media site to go dark.

Parler sued Amazon in federal court, complaining that Amazon’s decision to refuse Parler’s business could spell the end of the company. But on Tuesday, Matze put on a brave face, vowing the site would come back bigger and better than it was before the outage.

“We want to come back and not only come back strong, but we want to do it and show that we have a better system for handling our own terms-of-service violations than our competitors,” Matze told Fox News. “We want to make a bold statement when we come back and we want to do it strong. That’s my intention.”

In dropping Parler, Amazon complained that the social media website was not doing enough to address and remove violent, incendiary content posted by its users, some of which violated Parler’s own acceptable use policies. Parler reportedly told Amazon it would address the issue by hiring volunteer content moderators, a move Amazon said didn’t go far enough.

On Tuesday, Matze floated another idea: Tackling problematic posts by using algorithms.

“The platform will be free speech first, and we will abide by and we will be promoting free speech, but we will be taking more algorithmic approaches to content but doing it to respect people’s privacy, too,” he told Fox News.

Over the last few days, Parler had approached Amazon about using one of its cloud computing services called Rekognition, which Matze said would have allowed Parler to scan for troublesome posts on its website without tracking users or policing free speech.

Amazon confirmed to Fox News that it held conversations with Parler on the topic, but said the solution was not feasible because Rekognition was not able to scan for content in a way that adequately prevent problematic content from spreading on the site.

It isn’t clear how Parler intends to get back online without Amazon — Parler and Maetz have offered contradictory statements over the past few weeks, at times asserting Amazon is the only way for the company to survive while also vowing to go on without them.

But it appears to be preparing for a post-Amazon existence: On Monday, Parler’s domain registration was transferred to Epik, a supplier of online-related web hosting services. Officials at Epik say they have not yet held conversations with Parler about supporting their business, but it didn’t appear Epik had ruled them out, either.

Whether Parler comes online sooner or later, it may have another problem to tackle: On Tuesday, The Desk reported that hackers had claimed they’d gained access to personal identifying information about thousands of Parler users before the website went offline. That data includes hundreds of driver’s license photos that were uploaded to the website as part of Parler’s verification system. Parler has not yet returned a request for comment on that matter.

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