House Oversight Dems demand FBI probe of Parler's role as 'potential facilitator' of violence in Capitol riot

Maloney asks whether platform was a 'potential facilitator' in riots

Carolyn Maloney, the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, is asking the FBI to conduct a "robust examination" of the role social media site Parler played in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, specifically whether the platform was a "potential facilitator" of planning or inciting the violence. 

Maloney, D-N.Y., in a letter to the FBI Thursday, requested that the FBI review whether Parler facilitated planning and questioned whether it is "a potential conduit for foreign governments who may be financing civil unrest in the United States."

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Maloney pointed to a number of individuals who have been arrested and charged threatening violence against elected officials or for their role in participating directly in the Capitol riot, and said the Justice Department alleged that some conspirators posted threatening message on Parler.

Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) delivers her opening statement at a hearing of the House Oversight and Reform Committee on September 30, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Edelman-Pool/Getty Images)

Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) delivers her opening statement at a hearing of the House Oversight and Reform Committee on September 30, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Edelman-Pool/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

"It is clear that Parler houses additional evidence critical to investigations of the attack on the Capitol," Maloney wrote.

In a statement to Fox News, Parler COO Jeffrey Wernick said that "like other social-media platforms, we have been cooperating and will continue to cooperate with law-enforcement efforts to identify and prosecute those individuals responsible for organizing and carrying out the shameless Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol." 

"Parler welcomes Rep. Maloney’s call to have the Federal Bureau of Investigation conduct a robust examination of our policies and actions," Wernick said.  

In her letter, Maloney went on to point to questions raised about "Parler’s financing and its ties to Russia."

The intelligence community has warned, repeatedly, that Russia, as well as other adversaries, have used social media and other measures "to sow discord in the United States and interfere with our democracy."

"The company was founded by John Matze shortly after he traveled to Russia with his wife, who is Russian and whose family reportedly has ties to the Russian government," Maloney wrote, adding that "concerns about the company’s connections to Russia have grown" since the company "re-emerged on a Russian hosting service, DDos-Guard, after being denied services by Amazon Web Services."

Maloney said DDos-Guard "has ties to the Russian government and hosts the websites of other far-right extremist groups, as well as the terrorist group Hamas."

"Given these concerns, we ask that the FBI undertake a robust review of the role played by Parler in the January 6 attacks, including (1) as a potential facilitator of planning and incitement related to the attacks, (2) as a repository of key evidence posted by users on its site, and (3) as potential conduit for foreign governments who may be financing civil unrest in the United States," Maloney wrote.

She added that her committee would conduct its own investigation of the matters, and requested a meeting with FBI officials on the status and scope of its review "consistent with protecting the integrity of law enforcement efforts on this front." 

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Parler was removed from Google Play and the Apple App Store following the deadly Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. Soon after, Amazon Web Services also disconnected Parler from its servers.

The company is now suing Amazon in federal court.

Amazon has said it told Parler repeatedly that content on the site violated the two companies' agreement. Suspension was a "last resort" to block access to violent content, Amazon Web Services said in a response to the Parler lawsuit, "including plans for violence to disrupt the impending Presidential transition."

Parler is seeking a temporary restraining order to keep Amazon Web Services from blackballing Parler. It claims AWS is violating the Sherman Antitrust Act in the filing, pointing out that AWS has an agreement with competitor Twitter. Amazon has said that Parler demonstrated an "unwillingness and inability" to remove violent content from its site.

Fox News' Brian Flood contributed to this report. 

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