Okta CEO says Parler was 'not even trying' to suppress terrorist threats

Key Points
  • "We don't believe in unlawful activity and platforms that support unlawful activity," Okta CEO Todd McKinnon told CNBC.
  • He said Parler was not doing enough to suppress "threats of terrorism" and violence on its platform.
  • "That's really what crossed the line for us," he said.
Cybersecurity firm Okta CEO discusses terminating Parler's access
Cybersecurity firm Okta CEO discusses terminating Parler's access

Okta co-founder and CEO Todd McKinnon on Wednesday defended the company's decision to cut ties with social network Parler in the wake of the deadly pro-Trump riot last week at the U.S. Capitol.

In an interview on CNBC's "Closing Bell," McKinnon criticized Parler for not doing enough to regulate the posts made on its platform and rebuffed concerns that its actions restricted free expression.

"We're very, very much in favor of free speech. In fact, we have customers across the political spectrum —news organizations, candidates — and we believe in that strongly," said McKinnon, whose company sells security and identity management software.

"We don't believe in unlawful activity and platforms that support unlawful activity, and it was clear in this case that Parler was not even trying to suppress the threats of terrorism, the incitement of violence, the planning of terrorism," McKinnon added. "That's really what crossed the line for us."

Okta announced its decision to terminate Parler's access to its software in a tweet early Sunday morning. It claimed the alternative social network, which has drawn conservative users but also far-right extremists, was using a free trial of its product.

San Francisco-based Okta does not expect companies that utilize its services to "be perfect" with content moderation, McKinnon said, "as long as they try and have a policy to follow the law."

Screenshots of the Parler app viewed by CNBC show users had posted references to firing squads, along with calls to bring weapons to the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden next week.

Okta's action came shortly after Amazon Web Services announced it would no longer provide cloud services to Parler, citing "violent content" on the platform platform that violated AWS' terms of service.

In response, Parler sued Amazon and accused the Seattle-based company of violating antitrust laws. A spokesperson for Amazon previously told CNBC that Parler's claims were without merit.

Google and Apple also have removed the Parler app from their app stores. Eschewing a similar stance to McKinnon, Apple said Parler failed to take "adequate measures to address the proliferation" of threats on its platform.

Parler has gone offline, and founder and CEO John Matze said in a statement Monday that the shutdown will probably last "longer than expected." It first launched in 2018.

"This is not due to software restrictions — we have our software and everyone's data ready to go," Matze wrote. "Rather it's that Amazon's, Google's and Apple's statements to the press about dropping our access has caused most of our other vendors to drop their support for us as well."

Parler did not immediately respond to CNBC's request for comment on McKinnon's remarks.

— CNBC's Annie Palmer contributed to this report.