Former Parler CEO John Matze filed a lawsuit against the social media company he helped co-found on Tuesday, alleging theft, bullying, and intimidation.
The lawsuit, which was filed in Nevada, where Parler is based, alleged that Matze’s 40 percent ownership in Parler was taken away from him.
Matze’s suit also said that he had a dispute with one of Parler’s investors, Rebekah Mercer, over content moderation, and claimed he wanted moderation over comments about violence, QAnon, and alleged domestic terrorism. Mercer, he alleged, disagreed with him and “hijacked” the platform “to advance the personal political interests” of Mercer and current interim CEO Mark Meckler.
Parler was taken down by Amazon Web Services in January following the Jan. 6 Capitol incident, leaving the platform favored by conservatives and supporters of former President Donald Trump offline for more than a month. Matze, meanwhile, said in February that he was fired.
After the website was deplatformed by Amazon, as well as Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store, 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,” according to Matze’s suit.
When the site was down, Matze said that he wanted to implement moderation to “preserve the right of free expression for all points of view, but would preclude content that is inciting violence and acts of domestic terrorism.”
The lawsuit added that he is entitled to “punitive damages trebling (at a minimum) the millions that he is owed in compensatory damages,” adding that Parler officials allegedly threatened Matze with an “avalanche of legal claims and expenses if he dared defy Mercer.”
The suit also names Jeffrey Wernick, Parler’s chief operating officer, Meckler, and Dan Bongino as defendants. None have publicly responded to the lawsuit’s claims.
Parler was founded in 2018 as an alternative to Twitter that would protect free speech. It became popular with conservatives, namely after the Nov. 3 presidential election.
Parler filed a new lawsuit of its own against Amazon Web Services (AWS) earlier this month, alleging the Seattle-based tech giant tried to destroy its business following Jan. 6.
“Because of AWS’s malicious defamatory statements, Parler’s public reputation suffered severe damage and Parler has had many potential service providers refuse to work with it, hampering and delaying its ability to get back online,” the company’s lawyers wrote at the time.