Everything you need to know about Parler, the right-wing social media platform Kanye West is planning to buy
- Kanye West, now known as Ye, is in talks to buy right-wing social media platform Parler.
- Branded as a "free speech" platform, Parler hit the top of the App Store after the 2020 election but has since languished.
Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, is entering a deal to buy right-wing social-media platform Parler, which launched in 2018.
Parler said the rapper and fashion designer's takeover of the platform "will assure Parler a future role in creating an uncancelable ecosystem where all voices are welcome," in a press release.
—Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) June 25, 2020
Since its launch, Parler has spiked as high as number one on Apple's App Store for downloads after former president Donald Trump was banned from Facebook and Twitter, but its popularity has decreased over time compared to other right-wing platforms, according to digital intelligence platform Similarweb.
In September, Parler only saw 1,257,062 visitors, Similarweb found. Meanwhile, Trump's platform Truth Social had 8,956,693 visitors, and Gab had 12,806,464 visitors, per Similarweb's analysis.
From January to December, Similarweb saw Parler had an 83% decline in web traffic along with Gab, while Rumble and Twitter saw increases in traffic. Parler did not immediately respond to Business Insider's request for comment.
Here's a breakdown of what Parler is, how the app functions, and who controls it.
Parler did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.
What is Parler?
Parler describes itself as "non-biased, free speech social media focused on protecting user's rights." Users can discover news related to politics, sports, and entertainment. They can also comment on and upvote posts, called "parleys."
While Twitter labeled many of President Donald Trump's tweets after the election as "misleading," Parler brands itself as a "free speech" social media platform, and that emphasis means posts that spread untrue claims do not get labeled as misinformation. Parler's former CEO, John Matze, told Forbes in June 2020 there are "no fact checkers" on the app. Matze was fired from the social media platform in 2021, and told the New York Times he believed it was because of disagreements he had with heiress and Republican political donor Rebekah Mercer, who financially backs the platform.
- Any information shared on the site, including photos, videos, and comments.
- IP addresses and other location information.
- A user's searches, viewed posts, and the dates and times they visited the site.
The policy says that user information is shared with vendors, service providers, and analytics partners.
Users who violate the company's community guidelines can be removed from the app. The guidelines say posts that promote crime or unlawful acts, spam, copyright violations, content from terrorist organizations, or posts that otherwise interfere with Parler's "welcoming, nonpartisan Public Square" can be removed.
Who owns Parler?
Matze and Jared Thomson, Parler's former chief technology officer, created the app in 2018.
Matze graduated from the University of Denver in 2014 and worked as a software engineer for Amazon Web Services before creating the app, his LinkedIn profile says.
Thomson wrote on LinkedIn that he graduated from the University of Denver in 2015 with a bachelor's degree and a master's degree.
Matze told Forbes that he received funding for the app through angel investments, but he did not disclose the amount.
Now, Ye has agreed to buy the platform after his Twitter account was locked for violating Twitter's policies. Ye was accused of antisemitism after posting that he was "going death con 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE." This tweet was removed by Twitter.
"We're using this as a net for the people who have been bullied by the thought police to come and speak their mind," Ye told Bloomberg about why he wanted to buy Parler. "Express how you feel. Express what's tied up inside of you. Express what's been haunting you."
Ye told Bloomberg he "knew it was time to acquire my own platform," after he was kicked off Instagram and Twitter.
Who's on Parler?
Though Parler's tagline on the App Store is "unbiased social media," Matze told Forbes that liberals accounted for a "very minute share of the population" and that the platform's users were mainly Republican and right-wing influencers and politicians.
When a user signs up for the app, Parler suggests following "promoted members" including the prominent conservative pundits Sean Hannity and Dinesh D'Souza as well as politicians like Sen. Ted Cruz and Jo Jorgensen, the 2020 Libertarian presidential nominee.
Several right-wing activists who have been barred from other social-media platforms have "promoted member" accounts on Parler. Laura Loomer, a self-proclaimed "proud Islamophobe" whom Facebook barred for violating its policies against "dangerous individuals," joined in 2018 and has 659,000 followers on Parler in 2020. Milo Yiannopoulos, who has been barred from Twitter and Australia for inciting violence and harassment, is a promoted member with 176,000 followers in 2020.
Because of Parler's lax rules on identifying false information, promoted members have spread baseless theories on the app. Trump's campaign account — a promoted member with 1.8 million followers in 2020 — said that "mail-in ballots have led to total and complete CHAOS." In reality, despite some expected delays in counting votes, a record number of Americans were able to vote in 2020.
The conservative talk-show host Mark Levin, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and the pro-Trump vloggers Diamond and Silk have also spread baseless claims of election fraud to their combined millions of followers. There is no evidence of election fraud, and experts and news outlets have debunked claims of voter fraud.
What's on the Parler app?
Parler, like Twitter, allows users to post short messages, links, and photos to their followers.
Parler has a "discover news" section that recommends headlines from far-right blogs and news aggregators. These sites include Geller Report, founded by the anti-Muslim blogger Pamela Geller; The Epoch Times, which has promoted the unfounded claim that the coronavirus was created in a Chinese military lab; and The Federalist, which got suspended from Twitter for publishing an article instructing readers to deliberately infect young people with COVID-19.
The site has also recommended content from ESPN, TechCrunch, Ladders, and Page Six.
After the January 6, 2021 riot at the Capitol, Parler was kicked off major app stores, including Amazon Web Services, Apple, and Google, because of its role in organizing and rallying support for the riot.
Parler and the far-right's grip on the internet
Parler's rise represents one way that conservative pundits and right-wing agitators have built communities online — and used them to spread false theories.
Misinformation on the app may have already had real-world effects. "Stop the Steal," a group that falsely claims Democrats "stole" the presidential election, may have mobilized protesters on Parler. On November 6, 2020, Business Insider found that the hashtag #StoptheSteal had more than 15,000 "parleys," or mentions, on the platform.
Ben Shapiro, who has spread misinformation about climate science and Islam, has one of the most popular podcasts in the country. QAnon, an outlandish conspiracy theory purporting that Trump is secretly battling a group of Satan-worshipping, child-trafficking Democrats plotting to oust him, has spread through Twitter, Facebook, and Parler, Business Insider reported. Right-wing pundits used Twitter and YouTube to spread the conspiracy theory that Bill Gates was responsible for COVID-19.
In February, Trump launched the Truth Social social media platform 13 months after being kicked off Facebook and Twitter after the January 6 Capitol riot. The app was called a "right-wing echo chamber," by Tesla CEO Elon Musk who is in the process of buying Twitter.
Last month, investors pulled almost $140 million of commitments to invest in Digital World who planned to merge with Truth Social.
Some Democrats have said more must be done to match conservatives' competency online. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has said that part of her Democratic colleagues' challenge in securing down-ballot races this year was their failure to spend money on Facebook ads.
"Our party isn't even online, not in a real way that exhibits competence," Ocasio-Cortez told The New York Times.
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