Millions of conservatives flock to social media platform “Parler”

Written by on November 13, 2020

Millions of conservatives flock to social media platform “Parler”

By Megan Frank

November 13, 2020

Photo | Megan Frank / WLVR

In the wake of President’s Trump defeat, millions of conservatives have migrated to a social media platform called Parler. While it looks like a Twitter clone, the app has very few rules.

Listen to the story.

As Twitter and Facebook have stepped up efforts to curb disinformation on their platforms, Parler has become the most downloaded app in the U.S.

Self-styled as “the free speech app,” the service does not fact-check posts. It does, however, ban pornography, threats of violence and support for terrorism.

Bret Schafer, who covers disinformation topics at the Alliance for Securing Democracy, a nonpartisan Washington think tank, says platforms that lay down minimal — or no ground rules at all — can be problematic. 

“They often become playgrounds for neo-Nazis, racists and homophobes. When you say anything goes, anything tends to go.” 

Matt Krayton, who runs his own digital marketing agency and teaches social media strategy at Centenary University, explained that “There have been calls by certain right-wing personalities for their followers and their audiences to move off of Facebook and Twitter and onto things like Parler because there are no restrictions, no rules. Parler is home to a lot of sort of fringy personalities.”

Allentown resident and registered Parler user José Gomez claims Facebook unfairly censored his views. He says he was recently banned from the platform for 30 days.

“I didn’t use profanity. I was respectful in my opinion. As a conservative, we’re not going to agree on a lot of stuff, but there has to be a free exchange of ideas.”

It’s one reason why he’s giving Parler a shot, and he hopes liberals do, too.

“As a conservative, I don’t want social media that’s a right-wing echo chamber. I actually really enjoy engaging with people who are left-wing. I think it’s good to have a free exchange of ideas,” said Gomez.

Schafer agrees that platforms that act as an echo-chamber are not ideal.

“I think the more that we create an information space where conservatives exist on one platform, centrists on another, and liberals on another, it equates to us breaking apart into our own information environments,” said Schafer. “It’s bad for civic discourse, and it’s bad for democracy.”

Krayton is not convinced that so-called conservative social media platforms will last in the long run.

“If you’re talking to people who believe the same things that you do, you’re preaching to the choir. So you need to bring in new people,” he said. “The question is, can these platforms achieve that critical mass? I don’t think we’re going to see mass exits of users from Twitter and Facebook anytime soon.”

The Republican-led Federal Communications Commission is considering regulations that would penalize companies for censoring content. 

Next week, a Senate committee will consider reforms to the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which protects companies from lawsuits over user-generated content. Senate Republicans are calling for less content moderation by Big Tech — while Democrats are calling for more. 

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