Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West, is buying conservative social media app Parler, a company that touts itself as an “uncancelable free speech platform.”
The announcement comes just over a week since Instagram and Twitter both blocked the Grammy-winning rapper’s accounts over anti-semitic posts. Ye, who showed up in a “White Lives Matter” t-shirt during Paris Fashion week—which he characterized as “funny” in an interview with right-wing commentator Tucker Carlson—is seeing his politics lean further right by the day.
Ye does not appear to have used Parler before, as his account on the platform is dated Oct. 17, the date of the acquisition’s announcement. Parlement Technologies CEO George Farmer said, Ye will “never have to fear being removed from social media again” once he owns the platform. The deal is expected to go through by the end of the year, Parler’s parent company, Parlement, announced.
Founded in 2018, Parler gained popularity among Donald Trump’s supporters during the 2020 presidential race—especially among users who were either banned from larger sites or disagreed with the fact-checking and moderation policies of mainstream platforms. A hotbed of conspiracy theories, the app served as a platform for far-right groups to organize the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and was taken down by Apple, Google, and Amazon for it. (The website has been restored, and the app got back on the Apple App Store with content moderation last year and Google Play Store this year.)
“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, quoted in the acquisition’s press statement.
Is Kanye West the “richest Black man in history”?
Parler’s press release says so. Ye has claimed that his net worth is $10 billion. In 2021, some publications reported he was worth $6.6 billion.
But according to Forbes data, that doesn’t add up. Ye’s affluence is mostly speculative, with estimates including the money he’s poised to make—not money he already has. In actuality, sneaker brand Yeezy’s is his only profitable business, contributing $1.5 billion to his net worth. The rest—houses, clothes, jewelry, artwork, his music catalog and more—comes to around another $300 million.
If you’re wondering who the richest Black man is, it’s Nigerian billionaire Aliko Dangote. In the US, it’s investor Robert F. Smith.
The rise of “free speech” social media
Parler, which has raised over $56 million to date, has only amassed about 250,000 users so far. While not massive in isolation, Parler is part of a rapid and persistent proliferation of right-wing alt-tech platforms.
- There’s Gab, that attracted Parler’s crowd in the Jan. 6 aftermath
- Gettr got Joe Rogan to sign up
- Donald Trump’s Truth Social was restored on Google Play Store as he nears the deadline to take it public via a special-purpose acquisition company (SPAC)
- Right-wing app Rumble, backed by one of Trump’s biggest donors during the 2016 election campaign, went public via a SPAC deal in September
Person of interest: Rebekah Mercer
Parler owes its seed funding to Rebekah Mercer, the daughter of Robert Mercer, the billionaire hedge fund manager that founded data firm Cambridge Analytica. The pair were among the most influential political donors of the Trump campaign. Known as the “First Lady of the Alt-Right,” Rebekah introduced Trump to Steve Bannon, who played a key role in the 2016 presidential campaign and then became the White House’s chief strategist.
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