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Via Wikimedia Commons

What is Parler? The ‘free speech’ app teeming with Trump supporters

The platform, which doesn’t fact-check and describes itself as ‘unbiased social media’, has seen an influx of conservative users in recent days

Despite being declared the loser of the 2020 US presidential election, Donald Trump refuses to concede. The president continues to tweet baseless claims of voter fraud and assert that he “will win”, even though Joe Biden was confirmed as the president-elect on Saturday (November 7).

Trump’s tweets fuel his conspiracy theory that an influx of mail-in ballots – favoured by many voters due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic – resulted in electoral fraud, which ultimately led to his loss. There is no evidence to support this claim.

Notorious for his unhinged posts, the president has been censored by Twitter in recent days as the platform cracks down on election misinformation. Trump’s conservative supporters, unsurprisingly, aren’t happy about this, and have taken it upon themselves to quit the app in protest. 

Instead, they’re flocking to ‘free speech’ app, Parler, which has seen an influx of new users over the last week. According to founder John Matze (via BBC News), the self-declared “unbiased social media” platform gained two million new users in a day, and increased its daily active users four-fold over the weekend.

Though Trump himself hasn’t yet joined, Parler plays host to the likes of Texas senator Ted Cruz – who has 2.6 million followers – and Fox News hosts Mark Levin and Sean Hannity. Sounds absolutely heinous IMO.

Launched in 2018, Parler – named after the French verb, meaning ‘to speak’ – is similar to Twitter, except it doesn’t fact-check and keeps banning to a minimum (only in cases of pornography, threats of violence, and support for terrorism). Like other social media platforms, users have a scrolling news feed, can share photos, videos, and links, follow one another, and explore a ‘Discovery News’ tab. Posts can be up to 1,000 characters.

The app appears to be becoming the go-to for right-wing users who think moderation policies regarding hate speech, harassment, and disinformation have gone too far. As reported by BBC News, left-leaning Twitter users have mocked the mass exodus of the right-wing as an escape to a “safe space” devoid of challenge or criticism.

According to NBC News, Parler has been number one on both the Apple and Google app stores over the last few days. However, the influx of users hasn’t been without its problems, with many reporting that the app is slow and keeps crashing – though this doesn’t appear to be putting people off. “While some fringe message boards and services have sprung up to cater to conservatives,” reports NBC, “few have amassed the kind of user base Parler now boasts.”

In a statement, Parler’s chief operating officer, Jeffrey Wernick, said the app’s growth is attributable to its “efforts to earn our community’s trust, both by protecting their privacy, and being transparent about the way in which their content is handled on our platform”.

Though many might celebrate right-wing users abandoning Twitter, concerns have been raised about the far-right being contained to a social media echo chamber, which risks heightening division and leading to further extremism.