BuzzFeed reports that The Trump Organization discussed a deal with Parler that would have given it a 40 percent stake in return for preferential use.
The Trump Organization was reportedly in talks last year to acquire a 40 percent stake in Parler in return for the then-president using it as his main social media platform and posting to it before others. Were the deal to have been finalized, it is suggested that it would have contravened anti-bribery laws. Parler remains offline apart from a placeholder page following the revocation of its web hosting by Amazon Web Services (AWS) due to what AWS said were repeated failures to tackle dangerous content on the platform.
Parler calls itself the ‘free-speech social network’ and, while it was active, offered less stringent moderation of content than platforms like Facebook and Twitter in the name of protecting freedom of expression. This made it increasingly popular with people on the right-wing and far-right whose posts may have seen them banned from other platforms, who may have grown to dislike other platforms due to their perceived overzealous censorship, or who may simply have followed others onto the platform. While concerns had already been raised about incendiary content being posted to Parler, it was the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol that saw the platform removed from the Google and Apple app stores and saw its AWS hosting discontinued, with all three firms citing a lack of adequate moderation of the platform to deal with inciteful content.
BuzzFeed News reports that it was this that ultimately killed Parler’s potential deal with The Trump Organization, but that the two had been in discussion earlier in the summer of 2020 and then again in November following Donald Trump’s loss to Joe Biden in the US presidential election. BuzzFeed cites four sources who indicate that an initial meeting to discuss the idea to place at Mar-a-Lago in June 2020 and a single source who said that the talks were soon halted by the White House counsel’s office as such a deal would violate ethics rules. The report says it’s unclear to what extent, if at all, Donald Trump was involved in the talks.
More On The Trump Organization & Parler Deal
BuzzFeed says that documents it has seen show that Parler offered The Trump Organization a 40 percent stake in the platform, with half of that to be transferred immediately and the remainder in additional tranches over the course of the agreement’s 24-month period. In return, according to the documents, Trump was to post all his social media content to Parler at least four hours before any other platform, link back to Parler from other social media platforms and email mailing list send-outs, promote the company via his email lists, and make introductions to potential investors and advertisers.
From Parler’s perspective, such a deal would naturally have given it a huge draw for people primarily on the right but also across the political spectrum. Trump had around 88 million followers on Twitter and around 35 million on Facebook, so the platform would have been looking to grow its user numbers off the back of his use of it as a primary platform. From a social media and societal perspective, such a deal could only really be seen as unhealthy, with it further fragmenting political discourse, entrenching echo chambers, and creating a more fertile environment for dangerous content on a platform that was already widely being seen as not adequately tackling that.
On the legality of the deal, BuzzFeed quotes Kathleen Clark, a law professor at the Washington University in St. Louis, as saying: “I think it would have actually violated the bribery statute in that he would have been offered something of value — a stake in this company — in exchange for influencing an official act — the act of where to publish his official comments.” Scott Amey, general counsel at the non-partisan Project on Government Oversight, meanwhile, was quoted as saying that the news warranted “an immediate criminal investigation.”
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