Parler Allegedly Linked to Russian IRA Trolls

Founded by John Matze and Jared Thomson in August 2018, Parler is a U.S. social networking and microblogging service. Thomson is the company’s chief technology officer, while Matze serves as the CEO. Both of them attended a computer science program at the University of Denver.

Parler has a large user base of Trump supporters and various conservatives. Posts on the service often contain far-right content, conspiracy theories like QAnon, and antisemitism. Parler is popular among people who have been banned from mainstream social networking platforms like Facebook and Twitter. And, recently Parler was allegedly linked to Russian “Internet Research Agency (IRA)” trolls. Adding fuel to the speculation is the fact that Matze’s wife is Russian.

Parler describes itself as a non-biased, free speech social media platform. In July, Parler reported 2.8 million users. However, the number increased to over 8 million within a week of the U.S. presidential election on Nov. 3. That week alone, the platform gained over 3.5 million users. Currently, Parler is the most-downloaded mobile app in the Android and Apple iOS stores.

The app has gained popularity after fed-up conservatives said they were making accounts citing Twitter’s content moderation policies as censorship. In June, Twitter added a warning on some of President Trump’s tweets. The warning said Trump had violated Twitter’s policy against abusive behavior.

In October, Reuters reported that people associated with the Russian Internet Research Agency, or IRA have been operating social media accounts on both alt-tech like Parler and Gab and mainstream social media platforms. The IRA, you may remember, operated a troll farm linked to disinformation campaigns during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

One of the accounts, named Leo, shared certain familiar and unsupported claims on Parler. The account claimed that mail-in voting is prone to fraud and that Trump was infected with COVID-19 by activists. 

The Parler account had 14,000 followers, while the Twitter account had fewer than 200 followers. LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook all took actions to suspend the accounts being run by Russian trolls.

However, Parler refused to terminate the account after being informed of its ties with the misinformation group. Parler stated that it doesn’t need to respond because U.S. law enforcement hadn’t approached the platform directly.

Because John Matze’s wife is Russian, conspiracy theories on the left have insinuated she is a Russian asset.


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