Parler co-founder and former chief executive John Matze is suing the social media platform over his ouster as CEO earlier this year, alleging that his 40% stake in the company was stolen from him.
Matze is seeking “millions in compensatory” damages for the “orchestrated theft” of his part ownership of Parler, according to his lawsuit filed Monday in Clark County District Court, Nevada.
Launched in 2018 as an alternative to other social media sites that prohibit certain posts for being extreme or misleading, Parler became a haven for right-wing opinion after Facebook and Twitter started cracking down on hate speech and false claims about the election.
The site was grounded after the January 6 Capitol rampage by supporters of then-President Donald Trump. Apple and Google banned the app from their ecommerce stores, while Amazon cut off its web-hosting services to Parler over its unwillingness to remove posts promoting violence after the Capitol riot.
After Parler’s plug was effectively pulled, Matze was forced out by conservative donor Rebekah Mercer, another co-founder who funded Parler’s launch, according to previous statements by Matze as well as his suit.
Before his firing, Matze suggested barring known extremist groups engaged in inciting violence. His proposal was met with “dead silence, which he took to be a rejection of his proposal,” the document stated.
Matz was “abruptly ousted” for trying to “preserve Parler’s commitment to free expression while combatting any misuse by violent extremists and domestic terrorists in the wake of the January 6, 2021, attack at the U.S. Capitol,” the suit alleges. “Rather than protect Parler, its other owner, Rebekah Mercer, sought to co-opt it as a symbol or as the ‘tip of the spear’ for her brand of conservatism, and plotted to force Matze out as CEO, manager and member, and steal his forty percent (40%) ownership interest.”
Parler did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Parler returned to life online in a glitchy re-launch in mid-February, with Mark Meckler of the Tea Party Patriots movement at the helm as the app’s interim CEO.