What is Parler and why are tech giants shunning the ‘free-speech’ social network?


As mainstream social media tightened the screws on posts that peddled misinformation and incited violence in the wake of the US Capitol siege, millions of President Trump’s supporters headed to Parler.

The so-called “free speech-driven” app has become popular with users that have found themselves blocked from Twitter — a situation Trump himself is in.

Silicone Valley has all but muzzled Trump online by removing his virtual megaphones in the form of his Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts, now Big Tech has also taken a stand against Parler.

Here’s what you need to know about the platform and why it has been suspended from the top app stores.

What is Parler?

One of its founders John Matze, a Nevada-based conservative programmer and self-described libertarian, said he set Parler up in 2018 to offer a “free-speech driven” alternative to mainstream social platforms.

Users can post “without fear of being deplatformed for your views,” according to the social network. Aside from this, two rules govern what is shared: no criminal activities or spam are allowed.

With these principles, the Parler app rode the top-downloaded lists of both Google and Apple’s stores hitting the top spot during the final months of 2020.

Its users shot up to 8 million from 4.5 million amid the US election turmoil; as the likes of Facebook and Twitter moved to stymie political misinformation, conservatives spurned the more traditional platforms. Activity on Parler was 20 times greater than before.

While Trump hasn’t got an account, some well-known conservatives have joined the platform, including his lawyer Rudy Giuliani, Sean Hannity, a political commentator with Fox News, and senator for Texas, Ted Cruz.

Parler is reminiscent of Twitter in many ways, with “echoes” used to reshare posts, much like a retweet, and yellow medals for those who are “verified influencers,” where Twitter uses a blue tick.

In some cases, when posts are banished from the Twittersphere, they pop up again for a second life on the newer platform.

But Parler, however, has fewer checks and balances on dangerous content than Twitter, which is labouring to flag and block misinformation and encouragements of violence after international pressure to do so.

Posts ahead of the storming of Capitol Hill by Trump supporters saw users reference guns and violence, and some threads referenced QAnon conspiracy theories.

Which operating systems have banned it and why?

Amazon on Sunday said it would cut Parler off from its web hosting service for breaches of its guidelines, meaning the platform could go down if a new host isn’t found by Sunday evening.

The move by the e-commerce colossus came after both Google and Apple took the app off their online shelves for not addressing threats of violence.

“For us to distribute an app through Google Play, we do require that apps implement robust moderation for egregious content,” Google said in a statement.

“In light of this ongoing and urgent public safety threat, we are suspending the app’s listings from the Play Store until it addresses these issues”.

In response, Matze said: “We won’t cave to politically-motivated companies and those authoritarians who hate free speech!”

Apple cited “content that threatens the well-being of others or is intended to incite violence or other lawless acts” for the reason Parler was suspended from its own app store.

It gave the platform 24 hours to “remove all objectionable content from your app… as well as any content referring to harm to people or attacks on government facilities now or at any future date”.

Parler was also asked to provide a plan “to moderate and filter this content” from its pages.

Matze hit out at Apple, saying it was applying standards to his platform that it did not fulfill itself.

“Apparently they believe Parler is responsible for ALL user-generated content on Parler, Therefor (sic) by the same logic, Apple must be responsible for ALL actions taken by their phones,” he said.

What does the future hold for Parler, with big tech turning their backs on it? Its founder says the Amazon snub could mean it might be “unavailable” for up to a week while it is remade “from scratch”.

Read the full article at: euronews.com