Rep. Carolyn Maloney, the Democratic chairwoman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, on Thursday called on FBI Director Christopher Wray to investigate financing for Parler, including whether the social media site has any ties to Russia.
Part of Maloney’s rationale for investigating Parler’s links to Russia is that the social media site’s CEO, John Matze, founded the company shortly after traveling to Russia with his wife, who is Russian.
In a letter to Wray, Maloney called for a “comprehensive investigation” into Parler’s role as a “potential facilitator” for the riots at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. She also asked Wray to investigate whether Parler was used “as a potential conduit for foreign governments who may be financing civil unrest in the United States.”
Maloney asserted that “numerous” Parler users have been arrested over their activities at the Capitol riots, which occurred following a rally in Washington, D.C. to protest the results of the presidential election.
Five people died in the riots, including Capitol police officer Brian Sicknick and Ashli Babbit, a Trump supporter who was fatally shot by a police officer inside the Capitol.
Federal prosecutors have charged dozens of people for illegally entering the Capitol, attacking police officers, and other offenses. Many of the criminal complaints cite rioters’ posts on social media sites other than Parler. Prosecutors charged an off-duty police officer from Virginia who had posted photos from inside the Capitol on Facebook and Instagram.
“If you are too much of a coward to risk arrest, being fired, and actual gunfire to secure your rights, you have no words to speak I value,” the officer, Thomas Robertson, wrote on Instagram.
Several tech companies blacklisted Parler after the riots. Google removed the app from its online store, as did Apple. Amazon canceled its web hosting partnership with Parler, claiming that the company was not doing enough to moderate extremist comments on its site.
Maloney said that Parler’s financing and Russia ties should be investigated given that the site is now being hosted by a Russian company since being kicked off Amazon.
“Questions have also been raised about Parler’s financing and its ties to Russia, which the Intelligence Community has warned is continuing to use social media and other measures to sow discord in the United States and interfere with our democracy,” Maloney wrote.
She said that posts on Parler have “reportedly been traced back to Russian disinformation campaigns.”
“The company was founded by John Matze shortly after he traveled in Russia with his wife, who is Russian and whose family reportedly has ties to the Russian government,” she also wrote, citing a report from The Daily Mail.
Parler did not respond to a request for comment.
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