Parler Reappears With Help From Russian-Owned Security Service

Date: 2021-01-19 19:20:54

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Parler, the social network popular with the alt-right and conspiracy theorists, reappeared with the help of a Russian-owned web security service as the website hunts for a way around bans that took it offline earlier this month.

“Our return is inevitable due to hard work, and persistence against all odds,” Chief Executive Officer John Matze wrote in a new post, the latest since Amazon Web Services stopped hosting the site and it was banned from Apple Inc. and Google’s app stores. “Despite the threats and harassment not one Parler employee has quit. We are becoming closer and stronger as a team.”

Parler, which was dropped by the big tech companies after it was used by members to incite violence at the U.S. Capitol, is now relying on a hosting service from DDoS-Guard Corp., which is owned by two Russians, Evgenii Marchenko and Aleksei Likhachev, according to documents filed with Companies House, a U.K. agency that registers company information and makes it available to the public. DDoS-Guard’s website lists an Edinburgh location for its registered office.

Public data associated with the Parler.com domain name shows that one of the internet servers it directs visitors to is routed via DDoS-Guard. Another server, specifically for routing Parler.com email but not website content, is an Outlook.com address, operated by Microsoft Corp.

A spokeswoman for DDoS-Guard said the company was not hosting Parler and declined to comment on what services it was providing to the social media app. It confirmed it did store customer data as part of its offering.

On Sunday, Apple CEO Tim Cook defended Apple’s decision to delist the Parler app despite complaints from critics that the move impinges on free speech.

“We looked at the incitement to violence that was on there,” Cook said on “Fox News Sunday.”

“We don’t consider that free speech and incitement to violence has an intersection.”

Parler’s domain name is now registered with Epik Inc., a website services company based in Sammamish, Washington, according to public records made available by internet regulator Icann. Epik is also the domain registrar for Gab, another less restrictive social networking site popular with the far right.

Most of the features on Parler.com appeared to remain down early Tuesday, besides statements from Matze and other employees. Members are unable to log in or post messages and the app is still unavailable in the Apple Inc. or Google Play stores.

Microsoft didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Epik said in a sprawling statement on its website from Jan. 11 that it’s had “no contact or discussions with Parler in any form.” The statement also addressed propaganda, breakdowns in civil society and editorial malfeasance on the part of “major media owners.”

Before its ban, Parler — which has less restrictive terms dictating what members can post and was endorsed by some Republican lawmakers and media figures — had seen a surge in users as Twitter Inc. and Facebook Inc. banished outgoing President Donald Trump along with users and groups that supported the violence.

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