September 23, 2023

John Matze, the executive director of the competitive social media platform Parler, said Wednesday he was fired last week.

Matze, 27, who co-founded the website in 2018, said in an interview that he was not given any explanation for the decision. He said he believed he was fired because of a disagreement with prominent Republican political donor Rebekah Mercer, who supports Parler financially.

Ms. Mercer, he said, did not appear to impose any restrictions on what users could say to Parler, which has described itself as a “free speech” social network. While this open philosophy popularized the site with conservatives, it also created problems.

Last month, Parler was removed from Apple and Google app stores and booted from Amazon’s web hosting platform for not being strict enough on monitoring and removing posts that attempted to incite violence or crime.

“It’s always been about free speech and that everyone is welcome. I’ve never dealt with conservative political activism, ”said Matze. But he said he told Ms. Mercer Parler should consider stopping domestic terrorists, white supremacists, and members of QAnon, the unfounded pro-Trump conspiracy theory, from posting on the platform.

“I got total silence in response, and I took that dead silence as a disagreement,” he said.

Amy Peikoff, Parler’s chief policy officer, denied Mr. Matze’s report but offered no other explanation for the dismissal.

“Mr. Matze’s characterization of the events and circumstances surrounding his resignation from the position of Parler CEO was inaccurate and misleading,” Ms. Peikoff said in a statement Thursday to build an impartial platform dedicated to freedom of expression, civil discourse and user privacy. “

Mrs. Mercer did not respond to a request for comment.

After the November presidential election, millions of people flocked to Parler, a platform similar to Twitter, as mainstream sites like Facebook and Twitter became more aggressive to curb hate speech and misinformation. Last month, after a crowd of supporters of former President Donald J. Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol, in part at the urging of Mr. Trump, Twitter and Facebook cut him off completely from their websites.

But Parler was unable to benefit from the interest of the right-wing users for long. After Apple, Google, and Amazon refused to work with the company, the website went dark on Jan. 11 due to Parler not monitoring the platform.

Mr. Matze had been trying to find a way to get Parler back online. The company sued Amazon last month for antitrust violations. Parler also sought help from a Russian internet security company, DDoS-Guard, to secure a basic website even though users were unable to post.