February 5, 2021
In the weeks that followed November’s general election, Parler, the social media platform founded in 2018 by engineers John Matze and Jared Thomson, was steadily gaining momentum as it rose to the top of Apple’s App Store.
In a social media landscape saturated with left-leaning ideologues, Parler billed itself as a free speech microblogging platform, free of any political bias or censorship. This laissez-faire approach to social networking resonated with many, especially amid the increase of seemingly biased “fact checks” on political content. Within days of Twitter’s glaring foray into fact-checking, Parler reached over 850,000 daily downloads. Overtaking such giants as TikTok, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook, Parler climbed to the top spot of the App Store downloads chart.
It didn’t take long for the Silicon Valley titans to strike back. Framing the January 6 Capitol Hill riots as partially the fault of open and uncensored platforms like Parler — specifically due to their lack of active content filtering — both Apple and Google banned Parler from being offered or downloaded on their respective app stores. The final nail in the coffin came when Amazon evicted Parler from its Web Services (AWS) platform on January 11, effectively shutting down the entire website.
Parler has been down since Amazon Web Services (AWS) expelled the platform from its cloud servers. Parler’s website is now a static page bearing a message from the firm’s founder and former CEO, John Matze: “Now seems like the right time to remind you all — both lovers and haters — why we started this platform. We believe privacy is paramount and free speech essential, especially on social media. Our aim has always been to provide a nonpartisan public square where individuals can enjoy and exercise their rights to both. We will resolve any challenge before us and plan to welcome all of you back soon. We will not let civil discourse perish!” Despite being abruptly evicted from Amazon’s AWS cloud services, Matze assured users that their data had been recovered from Amazon and would ensure a smooth relaunch and rebuild.
Echoing a similar sentiment, Don Bongino explained to me that Parler’s engineers and design team had been working around the clock to rebuild and strengthen the app’s technology infrastructure, making it far more resilient to the whims of Silicon Valley’s gatekeepers.
Meanwhile, Parler is currently claiming an antitrust violation and breach of contract, suing Amazon for severing its ties with the platform, citing political animus as the tech giant’s impetus.
Since my last interview with Bongino, much has changed in the social media landscape. President Donald Trump, along with hundreds of thousands of other accounts, have been suspended and purged from Twitter. Parler, the free-speech alternative platform, has itself been evicted from Amazon’s cloud servers and the myriad of services it relied on it run.
I asked Bongino, as Parler’s strategic advisor, to elucidate on his vision for the future of Parler and similarly aligned free-speech platforms more broadly. “All of our warnings about where we were going is where we are now. Growing authoritarianism, the slippery slope. Everything we said is now happening. The world’s upside down. Imbeciles on the left continue to insist that the misinformation is coming for the conservatives.”
Offering a bleak outlook on the trajectory of the tech industry, Bongino added, “when it comes to this authoritarianism and totalitarianism, I don’t see it getting better. The Parler example was absolutely grotesque from someone who’s seen it. However awful you think it was from the exterior — a coordinated attack from the biggest tech companies — it was worse on the inside. We warned everyone about this.”
Bongino mentioned Matt Taibbi and Glenn Greenwald amongst a sparsely populated cadre of leftists who abide by liberal, democratic values. But regarding the majority, Bongino said, “they don’t see authoritarianism and the weaponization of government and the use of the free market — the alleged free market — against their competitors as a problem at all.”
Specifically, on the future of Parler and its awaited return to the web, Bongino was optimistic. “Maybe I’m a pessimist in the short run, but not in the log run. This quest by the left to be tyrants is like holding a beachball underwater. People’s desire to be free of censorship is always going to pop up over the water. They can’t keep doing this forever.
“In the short run they’ve had some successes. They took down Parler for a month, maybe a month and a half by the time we are back. And we will be back. And these people won’t have anything to boycott. We’ve made enormous investments and being resilient.”
“We could have been back up in a week, but we wanted to take our time. We will be back. That’s a 100%. But we want to do it right. We learned a lot of lessons from this. It’s like a football game. We had a plan, but it took a few hits for us to learn what we were doing wrong. We’ve learned our lesson and we are building the most cancel-culture free, the most robust social media network. When it comes back its going to be resilient to all of this.”
On the contentious issue of government and its role in the regulation of internet and tech companies, Bongino explained that indirectly, the government already does this. “There is already a bigger role of government. There is significant precedent for cases where the government has used private actors to do things to people that the government can’t do itself. There was an Alabama case,” Bongino says, referring to the 1946 Supreme Court ruling on Marsh v. Alabama, in which the court ruled that a private space that is open to the public must also uphold public rights. Bongino added, “the government can’t destroy our right to free speech. The government can get a private company to do this on their behalf.”
Further prodding on the broad issue of government regulation in technology, I asked Bongino to expound on the much-maligned Communications Decency Act of 1996 — specifically, Section 230. “Section 230 is a total joke at this point. It’s ‘Law in Name Only.’ The provision that allows sites to censor conservatives has to be replaced with an Internet Bill of Rights. It is incumbent upon a government who is supposed to represent all of us to represent us fairly. If we don’t get some sort of Internet Bill of Rights, the internet will cleave in half. There will be a free speech internet, and a soviet-style censored internet.”
Having firsthand experience bracing the brunt of monopolistic Silicon Valley tech firms, Bongino offered advise to budding entrepreneurs. “It is incumbent upon you to review every contract you have; get every vendor you have, and cancel them before they cancel you if you don’t think they are committed to free speech and protecting your rights. Get away from those companies. There are actual free speech companies out there you can use. You have to find companies that believe in free speech and are willing to give everyone the middle finger.”
Bongino added, “This stuff takes time. It took Fox News over 10 years before they started to turn a profit. Not every one of these places is going to be an overnight success. Everything is going to be a prolonged and tough slog. But in the end, there are massive dividends and rewards to be paid. The Regan revolution lasted eight years; but it took the dreaded 60s and the entire 70s to finally bring about.”
With his sights fervently set on Parler’s ensuing return, Bongino’s message to Amazon is, “we’ll see you guys in court. We will go bankrupt and destitute before we let this go. I have a platform and I won’t stop talking about this. To any company that decides to do this, we are going to use every communications vehicle at our disposal to make sure that people are warned. Over time people will look back and ask what happened? And that’s what happened: you turned into Soviets.”
Originally Published on The Daily Wire