Parler, the social media platform founded in 2018 by software engineers John Matze and Jared Thomson, has been steadily gaining momentum in a landscape dominated by Silicon Valley giants such as Facebook and Twitter.
The new social hub — which is built upon the notion of being open and transparent with its users and upholding free speech — experienced its most rapid rate of growth this month, amid the election. On November 9, according to market research firm Sensor Tower, Parler had 850,000 downloads, its most successful day to date. The app climbed to the top spot of Apple’s App Store downloads chart, overtaking TikTok, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat.
Many of the users flocking to Parler were motivated by the way establishment social media networks such as Twitter and Facebook glaringly injected themselves into our political dialogue and acted as purveyors of truth. Both Facebook and Twitter appended their own “fact check” disclaimers and warnings to random user posts, suggesting that the articles they shared or the opinions they echoed were misleading or false.
On October 14, further fueling distrust of Silicon Valley, Twitter actively suppressed a breaking New York Post story on Hunter Biden. The story, reporting on a trove of leaked emails, revealed dealings and negotiations between the Democratic Presidential candidate’s son and various foreign companies. Twitter not only locked the New York Post’s account, but they also locked out users and prevented them from sharing the article — as well as a subsequent piece from the Post.
Suspicions of Twitter’s political bias have also stemmed from its executive personnel’s proclivities. Earlier this year, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced that he had donated 10 million dollars to the Boston University’s Center for Antiracist Research, founded by radical activist and author Ibram X. Kendi. Following President Trump’s recent nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, Kendi had said, regarding Coney Barrett’s adopted Haitian children, “Some White colonizers “adopted” Black children. They “civilized” these “savage” children in the “superior” ways of White people, while using them as props in their lifelong pictures of denial, while cutting the biological parents of these children out of the picture of humanity.”
It was with this in mind that spates of social media users flocked to Parler, the platform loudly purporting to uphold neutrality in both its policies and practices. I spoke with Dan Bongino, a part-owner and investor in Parler, as well as the politically neutral alternative to YouTube, Rumbler. Bongino’s relationship with the social media app began with a sponsorship on his show. It was only later, roughly six months ago, after getting to know the service and the team behind it that Bongino decided to put his support behind the app’s mission and back them financially, upon which he also began acting as Parler’s strategic advisor.
Amid its rising popularity and growth — especially amongst conservatives — Bongino explained that he and the team at Parler do not intend to market or portray the social media network as a political platform with any partisan bias. While maintaining that he is content with Parler courting conservative voices, Bongino insisted that Parler isn’t a political platform — nor does it intend to be. “Parler is not a political platform; it is a micro-blogging platform,” he asserted.
As Bongino emphasized, Parler is not exclusive to right-wing commentators. The network already boasts an eclectic array of users, including actors and musicians and entertainers, all enticed by the minimalist and trivial idea of free expression. Singer Joy Villa expressed her support for the app, stating “I love that Parler is transparent with who views my posts and that they promote and actually support free speech and free thought.”
With regards to Parler’s long-term plan for expanding their user base, and whether Bongino would like to see it politically diversify, Bongino recalled an anecdote. “When I was an instructor at the Secret Service Training Academy, Roger Ailes once came to speak at a graduation ceremony. During the Q/A period at the end of his speech, Aisles was asked about his business plan for Fox News; he responded by saying, ‘well, I found this untapped market called fifty-one percent of the population.’”
Most people use Twitter for two reasons. First, to share their content and draw traffic to their site. The second reason is much less pragmatic but much more fun. There isn’t any single specific term for it, but it is best described as “political jousting.” The political joust is where all belligerents of any contested issue will flippantly hurl snide remarks and wryly snub each other’s work based purely on their ideology, without reading past headlines. This is the Twitter atmosphere in a nutshell and, while toxic and objectively unhealthy, it’s ultimately what keeps most users coming back, like junkies looking to get their next fix.
I asked Bongino how Parler could hope to achieve or replicate the natural vigor of such an environment without an ample serving of all facets of the ideological spectrum. “I think you have this the wrong way around,” Bongino explained, “It is a false assumption that we [conservatives] are here to fight with liberals. It’s what you can live without. The real question people should be asking is, can liberals live without harassing us?”
Elaborating on his point, Bongino invoked the Charles Krauthammer law. “To understand the workings of American politics, you have to understand this fundamental law: Conservatives think liberals are stupid. Liberals think conservatives are evil,” positing that liberals believe conservatives aren’t just wrong, they are morally deficient, and that it is “their life mission to harass us [conservatives]” and pontificate atop a moral high horse.” Bongino’s main point was that if conservatives all flocked to Parler, deserting Twitter entirely, Parler would not remain an ideological echo chamber for long, as liberals themselves would soon follow suit. “We can live without them; they cannot live without us,” he said.
Bongino added, “I am convinced that over time, in a few months to a year, as more and more people start engaging on Parler, we will start having the opposite conversation: Why even be on Twitter?”
On the topic of Twitter’s terms and conditions — which are often criticized as being both vague and selectively enforced, Bongino stated, “Parler’s rules are crystal clear,” pointing to the terse, two-page document on the site’s page. He added that while the practice of tinkering content recommendation algorithms to favor liberal voices — a practice coined as “shadow-banning” — was a concern on Twitter, Parler eschews such vague content tailoring and instead only shows users posts from accounts they follow.
Commenting on Twitter’s most recent decision to insert fact-checks and warning labels into tweets it deemed to contain misinformation, Bongino explained, “Twitter’s CEO, Jack [Dorsey], himself admitted that they [Twitter] have no expertise in voter fraud. Parler is not a political or a fact-check platform.”
Parler’s politically neutral underpinnings were recently emphasized by the site’s co-founder, Rebekah Mercer, who said, “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… 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.”
On Parler’s recent growth up, Bongino was elated, telling me, “this was a slow day, today, for Parler, we were only #14 in the App Store, ahead of Google and Disney. And this is with almost zero marketing budget.”
The future growth and expansion of budding challengers to Silicon Valley’s monopoly on social media may still be uncertain. However, the last several months have glaringly exposed the true penchants of Twitter and Facebook. Presiding over hundreds of millions — or even billions — of users, the tech titans of California have imbued their affection for big government into their domains. As such, they have assumed responsibilities far beyond the mere maintenance of a free platform. Convinced that they bear an obligation to discern and sieve information that permeates their own corners of the internet, they have elevated their role to effective “Ministers of Truth.” As the online social networks become more and more suffused with overbearing rules and regulations, it’s no wonder libertarian and conservative-leaning users are sent looking for freer, simpler and less overbearing social media outlets like Parler.
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