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The “Free Speech” Social Network, Parler, Outlined

After its followers praised and applauded the seizure of the Capitol on January 6, Parler was banned from the internet.

As evidence grows that Parler was engaged in the preparation of the uprising and was still being used to incite violence in the days following the pro-Trump “Save America” rally, tech titans essentially took the primarily conservative and unmoderated social network down. Parler was removed from Amazon Web Services on Sunday due of the risk to public safety, according to Amazon. Following Parler’s app’s removal from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store due to its role in encouraging violence, this happened. Additionally, Parler’s access to a free trial of the software offered by the security verification firm Okta was terminated.

According to emails obtained by BuzzFeed News, Amazon warned Parler, “Recently, we’ve witnessed a steady increase in this violent content on your website, all of which violates our conditions.” It is evident that Parler lacks an efficient method for adhering to the AWS terms of service.

The firm’s CEO, John Matze, stated before the platform went offline that he anticipated Parler may remain out for up to a week and noted that his company may need to “rebuild from scratch.” However, just because Parler is no longer around, at least temporarily, doesn’t imply that the postings and data of its millions of users are as well. Since January 6, at least one researcher says they have archived every Parler post. Now, it is being used to determine what occurred on Wednesday and who was engaged using that data, which apparently includes location data.

The closure of Parler comes at a time when focus is shifting to fringe platforms and when social networks are coming under more scrutiny for their role in promoting off-platform violence. Some speculated that Trump and his supporters would resort to Parler after Twitter permanently banned him and Facebook suspended his account till at least the end of his presidency.

Some contend that stronger controls ultimately drive people to the less-savory parts of the internet, despite the fact that mainstream platforms have recently been harsher about their moderating. This procedure unavoidably risks promoting the spread of false information, hate speech, and violent extremism.

Platforms like Parler and 4chan, a message board infamous for hate speech, are described by Jonathon Morgan, the CEO of Yonder, an AI company that analyzes misinformation, as “unmoderated kind of isolated areas where only people with extreme and extremist ideas spend their time.” That indicates that the information diet they are ingesting is uniform. The users of these networks may become more vulnerable to radicalization as a result, Morgan continued.

It’s not yet known when or even whether Parler will be able to resume operations. Nevertheless, the site’s brief period of operation has demonstrated how the usage of moderation on popular social networks has generated criticism. New platforms might still be created as an alternative to Twitter and Facebook even if Parler didn’t exist.

Describe Parler

In the months leading up to the 2020 election, conservatives promoted Parler as a Twitter and Facebook substitute. Since 2018, there has been an app and website called Parler that offers online free expression. Right-wing leaders have urged those angry about alleged Big Tech restrictions to join them on Parler, from Ivanka Trump to the governor of Nebraska.

Parler does initially resemble both Twitter and Facebook quite a little. Open the app, and you’ll see profiles challenging the validity of the 2020 election results and claims that free speech is being targeted by major tech companies. It’s simple to locate even more virulent right-wing viewpoints and hate speech with a few clicks. Overall, the website seems to be an amalgamation of some of the most evil social media sects, gathered on a single platform that has drawn millions of members.

Parler’s popularity skyrocketed in the closing weeks of the 2020 election. Since late October, more people have been searching for “Parler,” and after Joe Biden won the presidency, more people downloaded the app. The app actually briefly held the #1 spot in the App Store in November of last year, but its position has since declined sharply. Following the election, the site reportedly had more than 10 million members, and the company’s COO has stated that the user base is still expanding by the millions.

In comparison to websites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, which combined claim billions of users, these figures remain modest. However, Parler is also starting to generate discussion on those sites. According to statistics gathered by Zignal Labs, Parler garnered 1.5 million mentions on Twitter in the week following the election, and posts about Parler have amassed hundreds of thousands of “likes” on Facebook.

Parler has become into a stop for hate speech and false information that Twitter and Facebook wouldn’t tolerate. Many Trump supporters are also promoting the myth that the 2020 presidential election was rigged on the website. The rise of Parler’s popularity fits into a larger pattern of fringe publications like One America News and Newsmax attempting to attract a following of Trump supporters, particularly after he leaves office.

This post-election surge of media coverage is not Parler’s first appearance in the headlines. After Twitter added warning labels to some posts from President Trump during the summer, prominent conservatives persuaded their followers to download the app, and Parler began to observe an increase in users. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, a Republican, even released a video announcing his relocation to Parler.

Nevertheless, some claim that despite the recent focus, Parler’s rise is consistent with the history of American conservatives and their interactions with the media.

Lawrence Rosenthal, the director of the Center for Right-Wing Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, told Recode that “this follows a pattern of what the right wing has done [from] the advent of talk radio in the ’80s, and then through live cable TV, and then the rise of social media.” “What you discovered is that the right wing gives up on engaging in mainstream media and develops an alternate reality in each case,” the researcher said.

According to Rosenthal, Parler is merely the most recent manifestation of this process.

In response to Recode’s request for comment, Parler remained silent.

Parler still has a very long way to go if it wants to actually compete with the social media juggernauts it criticizes. Although Parler is determined to not moderate a lot of its content, pressure to do so might increase as users attempt to circumvent the site’s few rules.

Although Parler functions and appears like Twitter, there are significant differences.
The website Parler requests basic information throughout the signup process, such as a phone number and email address. During the sign-up procedure, Parler also presents a list of suggested hashtags and follows, most of which are conservative influencers. The homepage of the website asks you to publish anything (“What’s new?”) and displays an up-to-date list of posts and threads from accounts you follow. These accounts include hashtags and some of them are verified (which you can search separately).

Additionally, Parler has a “Discover” page where users can see “all of the latest news” from accounts they don’t already follow in addition to a private messaging tool that is comparable to Twitter’s direct messages. To become a “Citizen” on the app, users must submit a selfie and photos of a government-issued identification card on the “Verification” area.

Parler forgoes content curating, and updates from the people you follow show up chronologically rather than according to an algorithm like on Facebook and Twitter. The company’s policies read, “We do not filter your feed; we do not pretend to be equipped to do so.” Parler’s community guidelines assure users that the platform would be “viewpoint-neutral” and that “removing community members or member-provided content [shall be kept to an absolute minimum]” despite some restrictions, such as those against certain unlawful actions.

Although Parler maintains that it is not ideologically aligned, the platform features a lot of conservative content, and the site also has conservative supporters. Additionally, the website directs new visitors to conservative authors and information right away. Recode was asked to follow numerous well-known right-wing individuals and organizations when we created a new account on the website, including PragerU, Cruz, and Dinesh D’Souza.

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