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Ye to Buy Controversial Social Networking App Parler

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(Bloomberg) — Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, has agreed to buy Parler, a social media platform that has been embraced by conservatives who departed Twitter over allegations of political censorship.

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Parlement Technologies, the parent company behind Parler, announced Monday that it plans to sell the social media platform to the hip-hop icon for an undisclosed amount. The deal would include technical support from Parlement, such as cloud services.

Ye is buying his own social media platform at a time when the biggest tech firms are struggling with how to control and manage some of their largest users, and marks the continuing development of alternative social media sites.

“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 on Monday.

Ye has recently faced restrictions from the major social media platforms for breaking content policies. Twitter removed an antisemitic tweet from Ye last week and locked his accounts, just a day after he returned to the platform for the first time in nearly two years. Instagram has also deleted posts.

Parler was also banned from the app stores of both Google and Apple Inc after violating their policies in January 2021 following the US Capitol insurrection. The app returned to the Apple platform in May 2021, but only returned to Google’s main app store last month.

Parler is among a growing group of so-called alt-media sites that aim to give conservatives a forum to share views they feel are silenced on mainstream outlets. But the platforms have struggled at times to fulfill their users’ expansive definition of free speech while complying with app store policies.

Last month, Rumble Inc., the conservative video network backed by billionaire Peter Thiel and venture capitalist and Republican Senate candidate J.D. Vance, became a publicly traded company through a deal with a blank-check firm. The shares rose as much as 40% during the company’s first day of trading and it is now worth $2.6 billion.

Tesla Inc. Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk, who welcomed the rapper back to Twitter just hours before Ye’s account was locked, has decided to proceed with his offer to purchase Twitter after months of back-and-forth negotiations. Musk has said he will prioritize free speech on Twitter and criticized its decision to ban individuals such as former President Donald Trump for violating its rules.

Trump’s rival platform Truth Social has been available in the Apple App Store since February but has yet to launch in the Google Play store.

Parler Chief Executive Officer George Farmer is married to Candace Owens, a conservative influencer, and is the son of Michael Farmer, who is the founder of metal trader Red Kite Capital Management, a member of the U.K’s House of Lords and former treasurer of the Conservative Party.

It is hard to gauge the early success of the alt-tech rivals to Instagram and Twitter. Parler was downloaded about 100,000 times according to data from Sensor Towner. In comparison, Instagram was downloaded about 57 million times.

It is also unclear how Ye intends to finance the deal. An unaudited balance sheet of his finances reviewed by Bloomberg last year showed that he had $122 million in cash and stock, with billions more in other assets such as Yeezy. His Yeezy business made $191 million in royalties from a sneaker deal with Adidas in 2020, Bloomberg previously reported.

However, the artist has also launched high profile fights via Instagram with his corporate partners, including Adidas and Gap. Ye has also recently caused controversy after wearing a shirt at Paris fashion week that said “White Lives Matter.”

Ye’s user profile on Parler, linked from the press release announcing the deal, was created on Monday and as of 11:30 BST had 91 followers.

(Additional context throughout)

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