Parler’s CEO Targeted by Hacker Group, Death Threats

By Neil Campbell | January 19, 2021
Neil lives in Canada and writes about society and politics.

Parler’s CEO has gone into hiding following death threats made toward him and his family, according to a Motion to Seal filed in the case Parler v Amazon Web Services (AWS) in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington at Seattle on Jan. 15

The lawsuit is a result of Amazon’s decision to de-platform the Twitter competitor in the wake of the Capitol Building riots during the Jan. 6 Joint Session of Congress that confirmed Joe Biden as President-elect. The Motion to Seal seeks to redact names and identifying information of employees from both Parler and Amazon that were filed in Exhibits pursuant to the original lawsuit. 

The filing says the “social turmoil swirling around this dispute has sometimes been acute and troubling” and notes that “AWS both blamed the rift on supposed failures in Parler’s already controversial content moderation policies, and aired the dispute in the court of public opinion by leaking its termination message to the media.”

Parler, as Plaintiff, is filing the Motion to Seal because its employees are “suffering harassment and hostility, fear for their safety and that of their families, and in some cases have fled their home state to escape persecution.” CEO John Matze himself has “had to leave his home and go into hiding with his family after receiving death threats and invasive personal security breaches.”

The Exhibits Parler wishes to seal are composed of a Declaration given by Matze, two emails from an Amazon employee to Parler, a screenshot of a Tweet from slain Air Force Veteran Ashli Babbitt, text messages between an Amazon employee and Matze, and emails between Parler’s Chief Policy Officer Amy Peikoff and another Parler employee.

Screenshot of on Jan. 17, 2021
Screenshot of on Jan. 17, 2021

Fox News reported during the suit’s first hearing that Parler’s attorney, David Groesbeck, argued: “Millions of law-abiding Americans have had their voices silenced…There is no evidence, other than some anecdotal press references, that Parler was involved in inciting the riots.”

Amazon’s attorney Ambika Doran countered with evidence showing Parler users made posts calling for the assassination of Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, and members of the media. Doran did not explain how Parler was responsible for these posts. Nor did he provide any reason why Parler was not shielded from liability under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, as rivals Twitter and Facebook would be. 

Instead, Doran argued that the Capitol riots were a justified pretext to enact censorship through deplatforming Twitter’s main competitor: “The events of January 6 changed the way we think about the world. It took what was merely hypothetical and made it chillingly real.” According to Doran: “Amazon had every right, after that happened, with the surge of violent content on Parler, to take that into account when it made the decision it did.”

In a Jan. 17 interview with Fox News, Matze said that his company had not received any prior notice or threats from Amazon, Apple, or Google in the past: “It’s very, very interesting that they all, on the exact same day without previously indicating, they never indicated to us that there was any serious or material problem with our app. But on the same day, you know, all on the same day, they send us these very threatening notices.”

Matze said his company attempted to look into Google’s complaint after being removed from the Play Store, but received no notice and had no contact information. With Apple, he says his rep at the Silicon Valley giant “basically shrugged it off and made no indication that this was deadly serious, despite … their email being very serious.”

As for Amazon, Matze says they, too, “[were] basically saying: ‘Oh, I never saw any material problems. There’s no issues,’” saying the web service “played it off very nonchalantly.” 

“And so we had still even, you know, on the 8th and the 9th, you know, we had no real indication that this was, you know, deadly serious.”

Matze says he’s being targeted by a group called UGNazi (Underground Nazi Hacktivist Group): “They published my street address, they threatened to come through my front door.”

In 2019, two members of UGNazi, Mir Islam and Troy Woody Jr., were charged in the Philippines in connection with the murder of Woody’s girlfriend, Tomi Masters. According to a Buzzfeed article: “CCTV footage shows both men loading a box containing Masters’ body into a taxi early in the morning of Dec. 23. They later threw the box in a local river.

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