Great Britain

US lawmakers ask FBI to investigate Parler app's role in Capitol attack

American lawmakers have asked the FBI to investigate the role of Parler, the social media website and app popular with the American far right, in the violence at the US Capitol on 6 January.

Carolyn Maloney, chair of the House oversight and reform Committee, asked the FBI to review Parler’s role “as a potential facilitator of planning and incitement related to the violence, as a repository of key evidence posted by users on its site, and as a potential conduit for foreign governments who may be financing civil unrest in the United States”.

Maloney asked the FBI to review Parler’s financing and its ties to Russia.

Maloney cited press reports that detailed violent threats on Parler against state elected officials for their role in certifying the election results before the 6 January attack that left five dead. She also noted numerous Parler users have been arrested and charged with threatening violence against elected officials or for their roles in the attack.

She cited justice department charges against a Texas man who used a Parler account to post threats that he would return to the Capitol on 19 January “carrying weapons and massing in numbers so large that no army could match them”.

The justice department said the threats were viewed by other social media users tens of thousands of times.

Parler was launched in 2018 and won more users in the last months of the Trump presidency as social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook cracked down more forcefully on falsehoods and misinformation.

The social network, which resembles Twitter, fast became the hottest app among American conservatives, with high-profile proponents like Senator Ted Cruz recruiting new users.

But following the 6 January insurrection at the US Capitol, Google banned it from Google Play and Apple suspended it from the App Store.

Amazon then suspended Parler from its web hosting service AWS, in effect taking the site offline unless it could find a new company to host its services.

The website partially returned online this week, though only displaying a message from its chief executive, John Matze, saying he was working to restore functionality, with the help of a Russian-owned technology company.

Reuters reported this week that Parler partially resumed online operations.

The FBI and Parler did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

More than 25,000 national guard troops and new fencing ringed with razor wire were among the unprecedented security steps put in place ahead of Wednesday’s inauguration of President Joe Biden.

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