WASHINGTON, DC – In a recent letter to the House Oversight Committee Chairwoman, Parler alleged that in the weeks leading up to the violent uprising at the Capitol in January, the conservative social media network did wind up flagging certain content posted on its platform and shared it with the FBI prior to the riot.
— The Hill (@thehill) March 26, 2021
Lawyers for the site said in a letter dated March 25th to House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney that the organization had referred violent material posted on the platform to the FBI more than 50 times.
The lawyers pointed out that some of the flagged posts contained threats directed at the Capitol, where five people were killed during a riot that briefly prevented Congress from confirming President Biden’s electoral college victory.
Contained within the letter from March 25th, the lawyers pointed to how the company was unjustly maligned as being inactive regarding alerting authorities to possible criminal activities being planned or discussed:
“Far from being the far-right instigator and rogue company that Big Tech has portrayed Parler to be, the facts conclusively demonstrate that Parler has been a responsible and law-abiding company focused on ensuring that only free and lawful speech exists on its platform.”
A screenshot of what appears to be an email correspondence between Parler and the FBI is included in the letter.
It’s becoming more and more clear that the reasoning given by Amazon, Apple, and Google for banning Parler was pretextual, unwarranted, and an abuse of market power. https://t.co/fDaONfqmxK
— Rachel Bovard (@rachelbovard) March 25, 2021
The FBI reportedly declined to comment on the allegations brought forth by Parler.
Parler, which bills itself as a free speech alternative to the likes of Facebook and Twitter, has been chastised by the media and elected officials for reportedly hosting a lot of content that emboldened the storming of Congress before the 6th of January.
Ironically, after the dust settled regarding the Capitol riot in January and Parler was effectively de-platformed from the Apple and Google app stores and Amazon’s Web Services that hosted Parler, it would later be determined that Facebook wound up being the most pervasive platform in orchestrating the criminal activities from January 6th.
Prior to it being discovered that Facebook was the preferred platform of the Capitol rioters to orchestrate their efforts, Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg grievously downplayed Facebook’s role in what occurred on January 6th:
“I think these events were largely organized on platforms that don’t have [Facebook’s] abilities to stop hate and don’t have our standards and don’t have our transparency.”
The reason the March 25th letter from Parler’s legal team was directed to Rep. Maloney was because she had previously demanded answers regarding the platform and had asked for an FBI investigation into the role Parler played in the riot at the Capitol.
Parler informed the FBI of “specific threats of violence being planned at the Capitol” in advance of Jan. 6, the company asserted in a letter to lawmakers Thursday, deepening questions about why the bureau did not muster a more aggressive response.https://t.co/4WWmMo9EKe
— Justin Hendrix (@justinhendrix) March 26, 2021
In a statement released the same day of the letter getting sent, ranking member of the House Oversight Committee James Comer said the March 25th letter “fully debunked Chairwoman Maloney’s claims as not only baseless, but outrageous and entirely fictitious,” while still pressing for Twitter and Facebook to also be investigated.
Rep. Maloney has yet to comment on the letter from Parler’s attorney or Rep. Comer’s recent statement.
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The drama that surrounded Parler in the weeks after the Capitol riot extended to more than those who just allegedly attended the Capitol on January 6th.
One woman wound up getting let go from her company for simply having a Parler profile.
Here’s that report from January.
NEW YORK CITY, NY – According to reports, the president of a literary agency based out of New York City announced that they had terminated an employee simply because they had used social media platform alternatives Parler and Gab.
Newsweek: Agent Fired from Literary Agency for Using Parler and Gab.https://t.co/2SF3vb2LWW
— RizonSon O’Kodee (@KodeeRolden) January 27, 2021
No evidence of unsavory posts, no details about spicy takes on controversial topics – fired simply for having found to have been on the platforms.
The woman who was fired from Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency identified herself as Colleen Oefelein on Twitter. In her Twitter bio, Oefelein showcased that she was based out of Alaska, is an avid “bookworm”, and worked for “NY’s JDlit” – a.k.a., Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency.
Well thanks Twitter and @JDLitAgency. I just got fired because I’m a Christian and a conservative.
— Colleen Oefelein (@eerie_o) January 25, 2021
Jennifer De Chiara, who serves as the literary agency’s president and senior agent, confirmed that Oefelein was terminated on January 25th after being made aware that the former employee was simply using alternative social media:
“The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency was distressed to discover this morning, January 25th, that one of our agents has been using the social media platforms Gab and Parler. We do not condone this activity, and we apologize to anyone who has been affected or offended by this.”
“The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency has in the past and will continue to ensure a voice of unity, equality, and one that is on the side of social justice.”
“As of this morning, Colleen Oefelein is no longer an agent at The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency.”
Now, it’s unclear exactly how the employer became aware that Oefelein was using Parler and Gab, but at least one post on Twitter that was dated November 11th of 2020 by Oefelein reads as follows:
“I’m now also posting on Parler. It’s a great platform with no censorship! Giving away a few critiques there next week. Come find me @ColleenOefelein. #WritingCommunity #Writer #askagent”
— Colleen Oefelein (@eerie_o) November 12, 2020
So, perhaps that may have been the tweet that at least exposed Oefelein’s use of Parler.
But when looking at the context of the post where she proclaimed to be on the social network, it’s not as though it seemed she was using the platform for nefarious or vitriolic purposes.
By all means, it looks as though she was just trying to capitalize on a new platform for her to continue the types of social media posts she normally produces.
After reviewing her history on Twitter, we at Law Enforcement Today found that Oefelein’s posts typically revolve around the common obstacles of literary writing, and some cheeky posts that are basically vanilla-laced humor.
It also turns out that Oefelein is a retired Air Force captain who was the victim of a 2007 attack that made national headlines when her then-boyfriend’s (now husband) ex-girlfriend had driven 900 miles from Houston to Orlando to assault her.
— M.A. Rothman (@MichaelARothman) January 27, 2021
One aspect to keep in mind is that there wasn’t any evidence that Oefelein was crafting some dubious posts on either social media platform – simply using the platforms was the offense cited by the former employer.
But another question about this matter is whether this termination is illegal.
Of course, private companies aren’t compelled to mirror the honoring of the First Amendment as the government does – because private companies aren’t the government.
However, there is the matter of state law in New York – and whether there was some sort of employment law violation breached in this metaphorical witch hunt.
Eugene Volo, who serves as the Gary T. Schwartz Distinguished Professor of Law at UCLA, explored this concept relating to this case – and his findings show that there’s legal gray area all around.
One of the aspects pointed out by Volo is that while Oefelein’s former employer is based out of New York – Oefelein is based out of Alaska. This brings the question of whether a legal complaint would be examined under New York law or Alaska law.
While New York has an amalgamation of laws that protect employees from being terminated due to “an individual’s legal recreational activities outside work hours,” Alaska doesn’t afford such employee protections.
Interesting #freespeech case out of NY.
Should other states adopt laws like this, where you can’t be fired for legal recreational activities outside work hours, off of the employer’s premises?https://t.co/uUKNDL0yGn
— Bob Mueller – No, The Other One (@bobmueller) January 27, 2021
Another element that is unclear is whether Oefelein was actually an employee in the traditional sense, which Volo notes in his analysis that he’s merely assuming her to not be a 1099 contractor:
“Let’s assume for this that the article is correct in describing Oefelein as an employee; the law may not apply to certain kinds of independent contractors.”
But even everything that is legal and off-premises of someone’s work site – even in New York – has been deemed as not a “recreational activity” protected by New York’s employment laws. Volo went on to cite the 2008 case of Kolb v. Camilleri, where an employee was fired for picketing at a protest on his own time.
Another cited case text was that of Hudson v. Goldman Sachs, where the Supreme Court of New York found that “romantic relationships are not protected recreational activities.”
But then there’s the case of Cavanaugh V. Doherty, which showed that the Supreme Court of New York recognizes that a mere political disagreement or argument outside of work can’t result in someone being fired.
Needless to say, it’s strange territory in a legal sense for this matter. However, it’s also alarming that people are losing their jobs for simply choosing to utilize alternative social media platforms.
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Author: Gregory Hoyt