Top line

Former CEO John Matze sued Parler Tuesday for being ousted for tougher content moderation, which added to the controversy that plagued the beleaguered social network following the January 6th Capitol uprising.

In this photo illustration, the Parler logo is displayed on a smartphone.

SOPA Images / LightRocket via Getty Images

Key factors

Matze claims that Parler’s executive team, which includes conservative mega-donor Rebekah Mercer, orchestrated the “fancy and arrogant theft” of his 40% stake in the company.

Matze claims he was evicted by Mercer for trying to ban QAnon and neo-Nazi groups after the attack on the Capitol, while Mercer, who funded the social network and owned 60% of it, opposed the idea and Parler wanted to do so use to advance their own “brand” of conservatism, the lawsuit says.

Mercer is a named defendant in the lawsuit, along with Parler himself, COO Jeffrey Wernick, interim CEO Mark Meckler, and conservative media personality Dan Bongino, who says he has an interest in the company, although the lawsuit finds it ultimately it is unclear whether he was ever given shares. (Neither Parler nor anyone named in the lawsuit responded to the complaint.)

The lawsuit alleges that Parler and his executive team have breached his contract and defamed Matze by claiming he was “guilty of wrongdoing” after his release in early February.

Crucial quote

“The personal wishes of Mercer and the other defendants to steer the company in the direction of their personal political branding and enrichment were contrary to the interests of the company and were detrimental to them,” the lawsuit said.

Key background

Parler was founded in 2018 as a “free expression” haven for conservatives who believed that mainstream social networks like Facebook and Twitter were silencing their views. But the app was quickly screened for spreading misinformation about the elections, white supermacist hate speech, and alleged violent rhetoric after the Capitol uprising. Apple and Google launched it from their app stores, and Amazon has banned the company from using its cloud computing platform, Amazon Web Services. Parler eventually found another cloud provider, Los Angeles-based SkySilk, and is back with a bare-bones website, but its mobile app is still offline.