The People With Power at Parler
Social media is an ever-changing landscape with new entrants popping up all the time, however, few have the ability to stick around, which makes conservative and libertarian leaning social media app Parler an anomaly.
Parler was founded in 2018, but it didn’t begin to gain traction until earlier this month. Since the US presidential election on November 3, the social media app has shot to the top of app stores and over 4.5 million new accounts have been registered on the platform.
This new following is also coming at the expense of other social media apps, like Twitter, which has lost several high profile conservative users to the site which claims to be a “free speech platform” (a jab at Twitter’s content moderation policies). Among these new users are heavyweight conservative pundits like Mark Levin and Maria Bartiromo, whose departures have spurred many fans to follow suit.
The platform is backed by Rebekah Mercer, the daughter of hedge-fund investor Robert Mercer. The Mercer family has previously financed other conservative causes, including Breitbart News and Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
In a post on Parler, Rebekah Mercer said she and CEO John Matze “started Parler to provide a neutral platform for free speech, as our founders intended.” She added that the platform is an solution to the “ever increasing tyranny and hubris of our tech overlords.”
Unlike Facebook and Twitter, Parler leaves virtually all moderation decisions up to the user, through its quorum-based community jury system. The system allows users to choose whether to apply filters that hide content like hate speech, graphic violence and pornography.
But who is behind this upstart social media platform that rejects the content moderation norms, like fact checking and anti-hate speech policies, implemented by its peers?
The app is led by CEO and Co-Founder John Matze, a former Amazon AWS Software Engineer who also serves as Parler’s iOS developer. Alongside fellow University of Denver computer science alum Jared Thompson, Matze founded the app after being, “Exhausted with a lack of transparency in big tech, ideological suppression and privacy abuse.” Together the two found the funding to establish Parler as an alternative social media that is being widely embraced by conservatives.
However, the task of winning over new users can’t be left up to high profile defections from other platforms and to grow the company’s mindshare, Matze has turned to Elise Rhodes, a former Hospitality Manager at BLT Prime (a steakhouse with locations in New York, DC, and Miami). Rhodes joined Parler in July 2019 as the Director of Communications and quickly found herself stepping into the Chief Marketing Officer role where she has helped with business growth, increasing brand recognition, implementing risk mitigation strategies, and developing talent.
One of the most influential members of the Parler team is the company’s COO, Jeffrey Wernick, who is also an investor in the company, likely giving him a lot of sway within the organization. He has a resume of finding promising ventures as he was an early investor in both Uber and Airbnb and embraced bitcoin the year it was created. At Parler, Wernick will likely be a figure to watch as the company tries to scale quickly to take on social media mainstays like Facebook and Twitter.
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