Table of Contents
- Parler, a social media app touted by Republican politicians and right-wing pundits, topped the App Store in the days following the 2020 election.
- The app brands itself as a “free speech” platform, and CEO John Matze told Forbes there are “no fact checkers” on the app.
- Upon signing up, Parler recommends “promoted members,” including Sen. Ted Cruz, Sean Hannity, and Dinesh D’Souza.
- Parler has a “discover news” section that recommends posts from far-right blogs like The Epoch Times, which promoted the unfounded claim that coronavirus was created in a Chinese military lab.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Conservative pundits and influencers are getting their followers to join a new app, Parler.
Parler shot up to number 1 on Apple’s app store on Sunday, the day after major media outlets projected Joe Biden would win the 2020 presidential race. Parler was downloaded nearly 1 million times within five days of Election Day, November 3.
Twitter has labeled many of Trump’s tweets after the election as “misleading” for stating false claims about the election process.
Parler, on the other hand, brands itself as a “free speech” social media platform, per its description on the App Store. The app’s emphasis on free speech means posts that spread untrue claims do not get labeled for misinformation. CEO John Matze told Forbes there are “no fact checkers” on the app
—Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) June 25, 2020
Misinformation on the app may have already started to have real world impacts. “Stop the Steal,” a group that falsely claims Democrats “stole” the presidential election for Joe Biden, may have mobilized anti-vote protesters on Parler. Business Insider’s Paige Leskin found the #StoptheSteal hashtag had more than 15,000 “parleys,” or mentions, on the platform over the weekend. Stop the Steal protesters gathered around vote-counting centers in Georgia, Nevada, and Michigan demanding workers stop tallying ballots.
Here’s a breakdown of what Parler is, how the app functions, and who controls the site.
Parler did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s for comment.
What is Parler?
Parler describes itself as a “non-biased, free speech social media focused on protecting user’s rights.” Users can discover news related to politics, sports, and entertainment. Users can comment on and upvote posts, called “parleys.”
- All information shared on the site, including photos, videos, and comments
- IP addresses and other location information
- A user’s searches, viewed posts, and the number of times they visited
That user information is shared with vendors, service providers, and analytics partners, according to the policy.
Users who violate the company’s Community Guidelines can be removed from the app. Posts that promote crime or unlawful acts, spam, copyright violations, content from terrorist organization, and otherwise interfere with Parler’s “welcoming, nonpartisan Public Square” can be removed.
Who owns Parler?
Matze, the CEO, and CTO Jared Thompson created the app in 2018, the two told Forbes.
Matze graduated from the University of Denver in 2014 and worked as a software engineer for Amazon Web Services before creating the app, per his LinkedIn. Thompson wrote on LinkedIn he graduated from the University of Denver in 2015 with both a bachelor degree and a master’s degree.
Podcaster and prominent Trump supporter Dan Bongino, a pro-Trump Fox News contributor who has perpetuated the lie that masks are “largely ineffective” at preventing the spread of COVID-19, announced in June he would take an “ownership stake” in Parler. Matze said he received funding for the app through angel investments, but would not disclose the amount to Forbes.
Who is on Parler?
Despite the fact Parler’s tagline on the App store is “unbiased social media,” Matze told Forbes that liberals account for a “very minute share of the population,” and the platform’s users are mainly Republican and right-wing influencers and politicians
Upon signing up for the App, Parler suggests following “promoted members,” including prominent conservative pundits Sean Hannity and Dinesh D’Souza, as well as politicians like Sen. Ted Cruz and Libertarian presidential candidate Jo Jorgensen.
A number of right-wing activists banned from Twitter or Facebook have “promoted member” accounts on Parler. Laura Loomer, a self-proclaimed “proud Islamophobe” who Facebook banned for violating policies against “dangerous individuals,” joined in 2018 and has 659,000 followers on Parler. Milo Yiannopoulos, who has been banned from Twitter and Australia for inciting violence and harassment, is a promoted member with 176,000 members.
Due to Parler’s lax rules on identifying false information, promoted members have continued to spread baseless theories on the app. Trump’s campaign account — a promoted member with 1.8 million followers — falsely stated 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 due to volunteer election workers who oversaw the system.
Conservative talk show host Mark Levin, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, and pro-Trump vloggers Diamond & Silk have all spread the baseless claim of election fraud to their combined millions of followers. There is no evidence of election fraud in the 2020 race, and theories like the existence of dead people on voter rolls have been debunked by multiple outlets.
What’s on the Parler app?
Parler operates in a similar way to Twitter, allowing 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 anti-Muslim blogger Pamela Geller; The Epoch Times, which promoted the unfounded claim that coronavirus was created in a Chinese military lab, per the New York Times; 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.
Parler and the far-right’s grip on the internet
Parler’s rise is just one of the ways conservative pundits and right-wing agitators have built communities online — and use digital spaces to spread false theories.
Ben Shapiro, who has spread misinformation regarding climate science and Islam, has one of the most popular podcasts in the country. QAnon, an outlandish conspiracy theory that purports a group of Satan-worshipping, child-trafficking Democrats planned to oust Trump, has spread through Twitter, Facebook, and Parler, Business Insider reported. Right-wing pundits used Twitter and Youtube to spread the fake theory that Bill Gates was responsible for COVID-19.
Some Democrats say liberals must do more to match conservatives’ competency online. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said on Friday part of her Democratic colleagues challenge 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.