Republicans Say Call for FBI Probe into Parler Is a 'Political Ploy' to Shut Down Speech

The call for an FBI-led investigation into the role social media platform Parler played in the Capitol riot on January 6 is a "political ploy" by Democrats to silence speech, House Oversight Committee Republicans have said.

Parler was unfairly singled out for scrutiny and any probe should also include Facebook and Twitter because they were also used by the rioters, according to a letter published on Monday by Rep. James Comer (R-KY) and Rep. Greg Steube ( R-FL).

Last Thursday, committee chair Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) wrote to FBI director Christopher Wray, urging the agency to look into whether Parler had been a "potential facilitator of planning and incitement related to the violence."

The exclusion of mainstream social networks was seized upon by the Republicans this week, who said some rioters had used Facebook for "detailing planning about where to lodge and how to mobilize for January 6" and that Twitter was found to be hosting user content linked to the QAnon conspiracy theory following the Capitol incident.

They said the call for a Parler probe was "a transparently political ploy taking advantage of the tragedy that occurred on January 6 to shut down speech Democrats dislike" and "perhaps more disturbing is a Silicon Valley willing to oblige these impulses."

Parler has been offline since January 11, when its account with hosting giant Amazon Web Services (AWS) was suspended amid accusations that it was failing to moderate extreme user content. Its mobile app was also pulled by Apple and Google.

Moderation by the trio of technology companies came after a mob of Donald Trump supporters stormed the Capitol in a siege that left five people dead.

After the website went dark, Parler executives scrambled to find an alternative hosting service and filed legal action against AWS in an attempt to restore the platform.

A judge ruled against that appeal last week, after AWS alleged in a filing that violence at the U.S. Capitol was "assisted by content posted by Parler users." Parler's CEO John Matze said attempts to find new hosting partners had proven unsuccessful.

For now, all that remains is a static web page that is being kept online with the help of a Russia-based technology and cybersecurity company called DDoS-Guard.

In their letter on Monday, Rep. Comer and Rep. Steube said Parler had been "forced" off the internet and alleged that Facebook and Twitter were also "facilitators" of the January 6 riot, with a search of those sites showing "identical, disturbing posts."

The joint letter elaborated: "Casting blame on a single social media company known for its conservative user base while simply ignoring other social media companies known for sympathizing with liberal causes is blatantly and overly partisan."

Facebook and Twitter have been contacted for comment by Newsweek. The FBI was also contacted for comment via the justice department's Office of Public Affairs.

Rep. Steube echoed the contents of the letter during a Fox News interview on Monday. "Parler is so small compared to the behemoths that are big tech," he said, using a term that describes large tech companies including Facebook, Google, Twitter and Amazon. "To only ask [Parler] to come in and speak about these issues is pretty ludicrous."

Parler app icon
A general view of the the Parler app icon displayed on an iPhone on January 9, 2021 in London, England. House Oversight Committee Republicans said in a letter that if Parler is investigated, Facebook and Twitter should also be included. Hollie Adams/Getty