News and Commentary

Can Parler Compete With Twitter, Facebook? Experts Weigh In.
This illustration picture shows social media application logo from Parler displayed on a smartphone with its website in the background in Arlington, Virginia on July 2, 2020. - Amid rising turmoil in social media, recently formed social network Parler is gaining with prominent political conservatives who claim their voices are being silenced by Silicon Valley giants. Parler, founded in Nevada in 2018, bills itself as an alternative to "ideological suppression" at other social networks.

Now that some conservatives are jumping off Twitter and Facebook due to censorship and bias in favor of Parler, experts are weighing in on whether or not the “free speech network” could rise to become an actual competitor of the two mega-tech platforms.

The big question for Parler is whether or not it can rise above merely being a conservative echo chamber to become an actual force in the culture on par with Facebook and Twitter, similar to how Fox News rose to become a viable competitor with CNN. Fadi Quran, campaign director at Avaaz, believes that the app will flicker brightly for a while before imploding, asserting that its users will become a problem when returning to Facebook and Twitter.

“There are consequences with people using apps like [Parler],” Quran told ABC News. “Facebook and Twitter have to be ready when they come back because many of them will want to instigate violence and spread more misinformation.”

“Hate spreads,” he added. “People are going to lose trust in the idea of community, they won’t be civil with people they disagree with.”

Tech analyst Benedict Evans was a bit more measured in his critique of Parler, believing that the few issues people will be able to discuss freely on the platform will not be enough to propel mainstream popularity.

“Parler is a weak clone of Twitter, but you can go there to talk about one particular issue that’s now mostly blocked on Twitter,” said Evans. “But how many people care about that one issue? And do they care enough to spend all their time there, and not on Twitter or Facebook where all the other news and discussions are happening?”

Parler rose to prominence during the presidential election when Twitter openly censored the New York Post’s story about Hunter Biden’s laptop. For many conservatives, that was the last straw. “Last week, the app gained over 3.5 million users, according to Jeffrey Wernick, the company’s chief operating officer. It is now at the top of Apple’s App Store list of free apps,” reported ABC News.

In a post on the app this past Sunday, the app’s primary investor, Rebekah Mercer, daughter of hedge fund manager Robert Mercer, said the platform was founded as a place for neutral free speech.

“John and I started Parler to provide a neutral platform for free speech, as our founders intended, and also to create a social media environment that would protect data privacy,” Mercer said. “The ever increasing tyranny and hubris of our tech overlords demands that someone lead the fight against data mining, and for the protection of free speech online. That someone is Parler, a beacon to all who value their liberty, free speech and personal privacy.”

Despite the surge in subscribers, researchers have not seen a significant downturn in Twitter or Facebook’s usage.

“It is not the first niche social platform to pop up, or to achieve a lot of downloads,” said Renée DiResta, a technical research manager at Stanford University. “In fact, for Parler in particular, some very similar articles speculating about a mass exodus were written in June 2020, as prominent conservatives announced they were creating accounts in response to Twitter and Facebook shadow banning conservatives, censoring the president and other similar rationales.”

As The Daily Wire reported, Parler’s sudden popularity has been a cause for alarm in leftist circles. CNN, for instance, denounced it as a “threat to democracy.”

“People are going more and more into their own echo chambers, more into their own bubbles, especially Trump voters,” Stelter said. “There’s this new social media app, called Parler, getting a lot of attention. Because conservatives are leaving, saying they’re leaving Twitter and Facebook, going off to Parler because they believe Parler is a safer space for them.”

“What we’re seeing is even more of a bunker mentality in right-wing media,” Stelter continued. “Ultimately, that’s not good for the country.”

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