Move Over Elon: Kanye West Wants to Buy Parler

Move Over Elon: Kanye West Wants to Buy Parler

The performer and fashion mogul, who formally changed his name to “Ye,” has agreed to purchase Parler, “the world's pioneering uncancelable free speech platform.”

A rich and famous man known for unhinged social media posting plans to take control of a social media company. No, not Elon Musk and Twitter, and not Donald Trump and Truth Social, either. 

It’s rapper Kanye West and Parler. 

The performer and fashion mogul, who formally changed his name to “Ye,” has agreed to purchase Parler, “the world's pioneering uncancelable free speech platform.” “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 press release

Financial terms were not disclosed, with the deal expected to close in the fourth quarter. Parler, which is privately held, has said that it raised $56 million in funding. 

The terms “would include ongoing technical support from Parlement and the use of private cloud services via Parlement's private cloud and data center infrastructure,” the release said. 

The company's previous owner was Parlement Technologies, whose CEO is George Farmer. 

“This deal will change the world, and change the way the world thinks about free speech,” Farmer said in the release. “Ye is making a groundbreaking move into the free speech media space and will never have to fear being removed from social media again. Once again, Ye proves that he is one step ahead of the legacy media narrative. Parlement will be honored to help him achieve his goals.”

Farmer is married to the conservative commentator Candace Owens, with whom West has been aligned in recent years. Some observers noted the significance of this to the Parler deal. 

“Baffling that so many news stories about the acquisition are missing this context. This is why the news desk needs to talk to its beat reporters for these stories,” writer and extremism researcher Jared Holt said on Twitter. “The headline is that Owens used her friendship with Kanye to offload a dying platform. Not another celeb tech buy!”

Rebekah Mercer, the conservative philanthropist, has been Parler’s controlling shareholder since its founding in 2018. 

West is often in the news for controversial statements and actions. In recent weeks he has made headlines for a series of antisemitic remarks, including threatening to go “death con 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE,” in a post that Twitter later removed. West had also recently been locked out of his Instagram account, although it's not clear whether his interest in buying Parler predated those social media bans or not. 

The Anti-Defamation League denounced his comments. “There is no evidence that Ye views himself as a member of any organized extremist group, but his recent remarks are reminiscent of popular tropes espoused by antisemites, including his claim that Black people are Jews and cannot be antisemitic,” the ADL said. 

“Ye also invoked the antisemitic belief that Jewish people are disproportionately powerful and that they control the media, including the music industry. This trope has been present in the discourse of other Black performers and activists in the past and is a common talking point within more extremist groups, as evidenced by narratives promoted by the Nation of Islam. This trope is not unique to NOI, but has been repeatedly promoted by its notoriously antisemitic leader Louis Farrakhan.

While expressing support for Donald Trump during his term, West ran for president in 2020 as an independent candidate under the banner of what he called “The Birthday Party.” Various reports have shown that the campaign was run almost entirely by Republican operatives, possibly as an effort to siphon black voters away from Joe Biden. West, who did not qualify for the presidential ballot in several states, received 67,906 votes in the general election, the seventh-most among 2022 presidential candidates. 

Parler, one of several social media companies that have courted conservative users as an alternative to Twitter, has been controversial in its own right. Apple and Google pulled it from their app stores after the network was used to organize the January 6 Capitol riot, with Amazon dropping its web hosting support. This knocked the network offline for a time, although it returned in 2021. 

Other conservative alternatives to Twitter include Trump’s Truth Social; GETTR, founded by former Trump communications head Jason Miller; the video network and YouTube competitor Rumble; and Gab, which predates the others. Gab has also been accused of antisemitism due to statements by its founder and CEO, Andrew Torba. 

This led the Republican candidate for governor of Pennsylvania, Doug Mastriano, to cut ties with Gab after he had paid the site $5,000 earlier in the year. Before the Tree of Life synagogue massacre in 2018, which took place in Pennsylvania, the shooter had posted his antisemitic and anti-immigrant manifesto to Gab. 

Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.

Image: Reuters.