The CEO of Parler, which has been described as an alternative to Twitter, defended free speech in an interview on Tuesday in the midst of mainstream media-led criticism of the social media platform.
“People say crazy things all the time,” and “it’s not against the law to have those opinions,” Parler CEO John Matze told Fox News. He was responding to a question about why establishment media outlets have taken an increasingly critical tone against the platform.
“I always ask them, ‘What do you think of the First Amendment? Do you believe that we should have somebody in New York, let’s say in the middle of Times Square, telling you what you can and cannot say?’” Matze said.
“Because that’s what these companies are doing.”
“I don’t know why they’re so afraid. Maybe it’s because they don’t like that people are getting power again,” he continued.
“But it’s not against the law to have those opinions,” Matze added.
“It’s not against the law to express yourself. And if you like one political candidate or another, or you believe or don’t believe in climate change,” he continued, “you shouldn’t be taken offline because of it.”
After the Nov. 3 elections, Parler has seen a boost in users and traffic, coming after some conservative pundits and officials moved to the platform from Twitter.
The firm in late September posted a message about Election Day, saying it will be “a hub for unfettered, curation-free information before, during, and after the November 3 election.” The firm then took a shot at Facebook, Google, and Twitter for attempting to control the flow of information.
“Google, Facebook, and Twitter, by contrast, have announced plans to control the dissemination of ‘misinformation,’ which means, in effect: to take it upon themselves to tell their users what information they should trust and, ultimately, what they should think,” it said.
The three firms have posted disclaimers, fact checks, and have limited the reach on posts that allegedly run afoul of narratives they seek to promote.
Matze’s comments come as Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg came under fire from Senate Republicans in a Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday.
“That to me seems like you’re the ultimate editor,” committee chairman Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said during his opening statement to the two CEOs. “The editorial decision by the New York Post to run the story was overridden by Twitter and Facebook in different fashions to prevent its dissemination. Now if that’s not making an editorial decision I don’t know what would be.”
Some media pundits as well as researchers have complained that Parler allows for the spread of so-called conspiracy theories or disinformation. Bret Schafer, a fellow focusing on disinformation at the Alliance for Securing Democracy, told The Hill:
“Anytime you take a laissez-faire approach to moderation —you say ‘anything goes’ right up until actual threats of real world violence—that creates a huge space for some really problematic things to happen.”
He didn’t provide any evidence that showed whether views expressed on Parler have led to violence.