Mercer-backed Parler makes ‘free speech’ pitch to conservatives mad at Facebook and Twitter

  


CEO of Parler John Matze says the platform has grappled with its rapid growth.
Bridget Bennett for The Wall Street Journal

As Facebook Inc.
FB,
+0.68%

and Twitter Inc.
TWTR,
+1.56%

have taken a harder line against unsubstantiated claims of a stolen presidential election, prominent conservatives on both platforms have responded with anger and a frequent retort: Follow me on Parler.

Launched in 2018, the libertarian-leaning social network was the most downloaded app on both Android
GOOGL,
+1.68%

and Apple
AAPL,
+0.04%

devices for most of last week, according to data from Google and analytics firm App Annie. Its leaders envision it as a free-speech-focused alternative to the giants of Silicon Valley.


‘You’d fix one thing, and another would blow out. We’re now solid at this point.’


— Parler Chief Executive John Matze

The company’s user base more than doubled to 10 million in under a week, making it difficult for its roughly 30-person staff to keep up with the flood of new sign-ups.

The platform has deep-pocketed investors to fund further growth. Hedge-fund investor Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah are among the company’s financial backers, according to people familiar with the matter. The Mercers, who have not disclosed their involvement with Parler, have previously financed a number of conservative causes and backed Cambridge Analytica, the controversial data firm that worked for President Trump’s 2016 campaign.

After The Wall Street Journal reported on the Mercers’ ties with the platform, Rebekah Mercer said in a Parler post that she and Matze “started Parler to provide a neutral platform for free speech, as our founders intended.” She said the effort is an answer to what she called the “ever increasing tyranny and hubris of our tech overlords.”

An expanded version of this report appears at WSJ.com.



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