Parler Finds Sanctuary in Russia, But FBI Asked to Investigate Platform

Parler is online after Russian based host, DDOS-Guard, began hosting the site. This as the FBI is asked to investigate the platform.

Right wing echo chamber, Parler, is back online. This after Amazon pulled the plug on the platform for playing host to extremist content and failing to moderate. Earlier this month, Parler CEO, John Matze, admitted that getting the website online might be futile. Things looked even worse for Parler after losing their case to have the site immediately restored on the Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Some, however, might note that the platform is actually up. It’s curious that a platform without a host is somehow online. As it turns out, Parler actually does have a host now. It is via Russian based web service, DDOS-Guard. From The Guardian:

On Monday, Parler’s website was reachable again, though only with a message from its chief executive, John Matze, saying he was working to restore functionality.

The internet protocol (IP) address it used is owned by DDos-Guard, which is controlled by two Russian men and provides services including protection from distributed denial of service attacks, infrastructure expert Ronald Guilmette told Reuters.

DDoS-Guard’s other clients include the Russian ministry of defence, as well as media organisations in Moscow. Until recently, it offered 8kun – which was previously known as 8chan – protection from DDoS. Last week, DDoS-Guard became the latest company to cut ties with 8kun’s hosting company, VanwaTech, following inquiries from the Guardian.

If Parler’s “free speech” website is fully restored, users would be able to see and post comments. Most users prefer the app, however, which remains banned from the official Apple and Google stores.

While it seems as though things are looking up for Parler, there is also risk for DDOS-Guard at this point. As it turns out, DDOS-Guard is going to have to forfeit a number of IP addresses including one currently being occupied by Parler. From Krebs On Security:

Parler, the beleaguered social network advertised as a “free speech” alternative to Facebook and Twitter, has had a tough month. Apple and Google removed the Parler app from their stores, and Amazon blocked the platform from using its hosting services. Parler has since found a home in DDoS-Guard, a Russian digital infrastructure company. But now it appears DDoS-Guard is about to be relieved of more than two-thirds of the Internet address space the company leases to clients — including the Internet addresses currently occupied by Parler.

The pending disruption for DDoS-Guard and Parler comes compliments of Ron Guilmette, a researcher who has made it something of a personal mission to de-platform conspiracy theorist and far-right groups.

In studying the more than 11,000 Internet addresses assigned to those two companies, Guilmette found that approximately 66 percent of them were doled out to the Belize entity by LACNIC, the regional Internet registry for the Latin American and Caribbean regions.

Suspecting that DDoS-Guard incorporated in Belize on paper just to get huge swaths of IP addresses that are supposed to be given only to entities with a physical presence in the region, Guilmette filed a complaint with the Internet registry about his suspicions back in November.

Guilmette said LACNIC told him it would investigate, and that any adjudication on the matter could take up to three months. But earlier this week, LACNIC published a notice on its website that it intends to revoke 8,192 IPv4 addresses from DDoS-Guard — including the Internet address currently assigned to Parler[.]com.

So, while Parler is partially back, it may be only a temporary reprieve depending on the actions taken by LACNIC.

Meanwhile, lawmakers are now asking the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to investigate what role the platform played during the January 6 terrorist attack. From The Verge:

On Thursday, the House Oversight Committee called for an FBI investigation into Parler’s involvement in the deadly attack on the Capitol this month.

In a letter sent to FBI Director Christopher Wray, House Oversight Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) called for the bureau to “conduct a robust examination of the role that the social media site Parler played” in the January 6th pro-Trump assault on the Capitol. Maloney said that the committee intends to open its own investigation and requested a meeting with FBI officials regarding the status and scope of any future investigation into the social media platform.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Maloney said “I am going to get to the bottom of who owns and funds social media platforms like Parler that condone and create violence.”

In November, The Wall Street Journal reported that Parler receives financial support from the conservative hedge-fund investor Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah. The Mercers are known for financially backing conservative causes and organizations like the now defunct Cambridge Analytica.

So, the platform is now facing pressure on two fronts: both on the legal side of things and from the hosting perspective. As it is, the platform struggled to find a host because they facilitated terrorist activity. If DDOS-Guard is unable to host the site, then the platform will be back to square one. The list of hosting companies willing to allow terrorist activities is growing increasingly short. Further, who knows what is going to come from a potential FBI investigation into the platform?

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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