The head of the House oversight committee asked the FBI on Thursday to conduct a review of the social media platform Parler, which advertises itself as an alternative to more mainstream sites that have banned some far-right extremists.
The committee’s chair, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., wrote to FBI Director Chris Wray asking him to look at how Parler was used before and during the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol when pro-Trump extremists stormed the building as Congress was certifying the results of the presidential election.
“Numerous Parler users have been arrested and charged with threatening violence against elected officials or for their role in participating directly in the January 6 attacks,” Maloney wrote.
The letter was first reported by The Washington Post.
Parler became one of several havens for far-right users in recent months, especially when platforms including Facebook and Twitter banned then-President Donald Trump and deleted some efforts to promote false claims about the legitimacy of the election, calls to violent insurrection, and promotion of the QAnon conspiracy theory.
But Parler had trouble staying online in the days immediately following the election, as Amazon, which hosted its servers, cut ties with the company. It has since intermittently come back online, with lingering technical difficulties, after finding refuge with a Russian company called DDoS-Guard.
A number of Jan. 6 rioters have been charged after posting their activities that day to Parler and major social networking sites popular in the U.S., like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok, charging documents show.
Parler stands alone, however, in that its poor security allowed activists to easily download a significant amount of data and content that its users had posted to the site after the riots until Amazon pulled the plug.
Grassroots efforts to mine that data for useful information to give to law enforcement are ongoing. The FBI didn’t immediately respond to a request for this comment for this article, but a spokesperson said in an email Tuesday that it had received more than 200,000 digital tips from Jan. 6, and the agency is offering rewards for information on some suspects.