Parler’s recent rise in popularity highlights increasingly polar social media landscape

Tony+Webster+%7C+Wikimedia+Commons

Tony Webster | Wikimedia Commons

Farah Javed

Since the announcement that Joseph Biden will be the 46th President of the United States was made, social media app Parler found its number of users grow exponentially. Marketed as an app promising free speech, it is now recognized as a predominantly right-wing social media platform.

Parler entered the app store in 2018, created by John Matze Jr. and Jared Thomson, both graduates from the University of Denver who felt that existing social media apps were not proponents of free speech. Both argued they were “exhausted with a lack of transparency in big tech, ideological suppression and privacy abuse,” according to Forbes.

Parler, similar to Twitter and Facebook, has features like tagging people, posting photos, writing messages for people to see and a megaphone button that works like Twitter’s retweet button.

There are also badges that indicate status, similar to Twitter. A yellow badge is given to “verified influencers,” like Fox News reporter Sean Hannity or President Donald Trump’s children, according to The Los Angeles Times. A silver badge with a rocket on it means that a user joined the platform around the time it launched.

Parler employees are assigned white badges with red outlines. There is also a badge to signify that a user is a real person and not a robot.

At its core, Parler, just like the French translation of the word, is a place for people to communicate through sharing thoughts and ideas. However, there is one important difference between Parler and other apps: unfiltered, unmonitored content.

“Open the app, there are profiles pushing doubt about the 2020 election’s results and declarations that the mainstream tech platforms are targeting free speech. With just a few clicks, it’s easy to find even more extreme right-wing voices and hate speech,” reported Vox.

Instead of being a platform to post photos of cute animals, Parler is used as a place to speak out against politicians, religions, immigration and other topics that would normally be flagged by the algorithms used on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Parler’s growing user base is made up of people who are disgruntled by the fact that Facebook and Twitter flag their posts and even mark their accounts for having false information.

For instance, right-wing and self-proclaimed “proud Islamophobe” journalist Laura Loomer is an ardent proponent of Parler. “Twitter has aided the Democrat Party in stealing this election and now everything Trump says is being silenced. Tell everyone you know to get on Parler,” she said.

Loomer herself is banned from social media platforms for Muslim related hate speech.

For example, she tweeted, “Someone needs to create a non-Islamic form of Uber or Lyft because I never want to support another Islamic immigrant driver.” On Instagram, she said Muslim Rep. Ilhan Omar is “pushing for another 9/11,” and urged “patriots” to stop her. Both social media platforms banned her accounts.

On Parlor, however, Loomer was able to claim “ANTIFA terrorists and Black Lives Matter” are “tied to HAMAS, an Islamic terrorist organization,” Fast Company reported. While her statement had no proof or truth to it, Parler did not flag her content or account like other social media platforms would.

Parlor essentially functions like a blog where anyone can write what they are thinking, without consequences. Proponents of the far-right, like those who supported the “Stop the Count” movement, can get banned on social media and then quickly move to Parlor where no one will bar their content.

Following increasing crackdowns on fake news by Facebook and Twitter in the days leading up to the 2020 presidential election, members of the far-right jumped ship over to Parler.

“In Apple’s app store, according to data from analytics firm Sensor Tower, Parler jumped from 1,023 on the most-downloaded list one day before the election to No. 1 in a single week,” The Washington Post reported.

Parler has become a growing concern since it appears to be disconnected from ongoing real news.

For instance, when it was announced Donald Trump Jr. contracted the coronavirus, Los Angeles Times columnist Carolina A. Miranda compared Twitter’s and Parler’s reactions to it.

“I was monitoring both Twitter and Parler last week when news broke that Donald Trump Jr. had contracted COVID-19. The news quickly trended on Twitter yet failed to register on Parler,” she reported.

“Trump’s name did not appear among Parler’s suggested hashtags, and clicking the ‘Discover’ icon (Parler’s equivalent of ‘Twitter Moments’), turned up posts about free market economies and an old parley by a former ‘Duck Dynasty’ star promoting a podcast about ‘Thanksgiving lockdowns,’” Miranda added.

Trump Jr.’s diagnosis was top news on many networks and social media platforms, yet if a user solely used Parler, they wouldn’t know about it.

The day the Trump administration authorized the transition of government to Biden, the news was trending on Twitter. Yet again, Parler did not have any reactions or mention of it, according to Miranda.

Parlor’s apparent disconnect with real-world news and events is a cause for concern, as it spreads misinformation. Users are able to mute, deny or approve content that appears on their feeds.

Hence, they can choose to only view content that coincides with their own beliefs, as well disregard real-world news in favor of exaggerated or false news.

The app has also been accused of being biased. Beth Bourdon, a left identifying public defense attorney joined Parler with her friends in order to “show them what free speech is.”

She was reportedly banned from the app “without notice after she and some friends spoke up against many of the viewpoints on the site and she posted a photo that some could consider explicit,” The Washington Post reported.

As users participate in the #Twexit movement, the transfer from Twitter to Parlor, the right-wing app will become saturated with more misinformation. Attempts to show different perspectives, as evidenced by the case with Bourdon, may result in being banned from Parlor.

Regardless of whether someone is a proponent of the app or not, Parlor showcases the age-old debate regarding the First Amendment and the extent to which free speech can be protected in the United States.