Kanye West will buy the conservative-friendly social site Parler
Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West, has entered into an agreement to purchase Parler, a social media site popular with Trump loyalists, the company announced on Monday.
The surprise move comes days after Twitter and Instagram locked Ye’s accounts over a series of antisemitic posts that were widely condemned.
Parler, which calls itself the “pioneering uncancelable free speech platform,” characterized the restrictions Twitter and Instagram placed on his accounts as censorship, arguing that Parler’s more hands-off approach to content moderation ensures that all voices can be heard.
“In a world where conservative opinions are considered to be controversial, we have to make sure we have the right to freely express ourselves,” Ye said in a statement.
Parler, the social media site of the Nashville-based parent company Parlement Technologies, did not disclose how much Ye has agreed to purchase the social media site for, nor were any other terms of the deal revealed. But Parler officials said the deal is expected to close by the end of the year.
How Ye got banned
Ye, whose musical career and apparel line has made him a billionaire, is a frequent and often erratic user of social media. In recent weeks, Ye has been on something of a controversy bender.
He landed in hot water earlier this month for wearing a t-short that read “White Lives Matter” at Paris Fashion Week. In unaired snippets of a interview he did with Tucker Carlson on Fox News that were recently released by Vice, Ye espoused various antisemitic conspiracy theories, and asserted that “professional actors” had been placed in his house to “sexualize” his children.
Politically, Ye has been a longtime supporter of former president Donald Trump. And he is an outspoken critic of cancel culture, denouncing what he sees as to the overpolicing of free speech in society.
That anything-goes ethos is a hallmark of Parler, which has had a turbulent history since its inception in 2018.
Deplatforming, a management shakeup and a return
During the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, hundreds of videos of the siege were posted to Parler, which in the leadup to the violence had become a gathering place for far-right activists angry over Trump’s election loss.
Parler’s failure to remove violent and hateful posts following the Capitol riots led to Amazon severing the social media site from its web-hosting services, prompting a protracted legal battle and the abrupt firing of its former CEO John Matze.
Matze’s messy departure was the result of a standoff between him and Rebekah Mercer, the Republican mega-donor and Parler co-founder, over how the platform should address inflammatory content, sources close to the matter told NPR at the time.
Parler suffered an additional blow when Apple and Google removed the service from their app stores for violating their terms of service. Apple said it found posts that “encouraged violence, denigrated various ethnic groups, races and religions” and “glorified Nazism.”
Since then, however, Parler has committed to better monitoring hate speech and violence on the site, leading Apple and Google to welcome the app back on their app stores.
Parler is competing in a crowded space, with several other conservative-friendly social media sites also attempting to challenge the dominance of Big Tech. Among them are Rumble, a YouTube clone backed by billionaire venture capitalist Peter Thiel; Gettr, a service similar to Twitter founded by a former Trump adviser; and TruthSocial, another Twitter competitor founded by former president Trump.
Ye’s pending purchase of Parler also comes as Twitter’s ownership is in flux. Elon Musk and Twitter are in dizzying negotiations and legal battles regarding his purchase of the platform, and the Tesla and SpaceX chief executive has vowed, among many other proposals, to relax Twitter’s content moderation rules.
In a statement announcing Ye’s expected acquisition, Parler CEO George Farmer predicted that the deal would have a far-reaching impact on online speech.
“Ye is making a groundbreaking move into the free speech media space and will never have to fear being removed from social media again,” Farmer said. “Once again, Ye proves that he is one step ahead of the legacy media narrative.”