During the 2020 presidential election, the first half of the race reflected the majority of votes in President Donald Trump’s favour. However, his rival, Joe Biden, was still ahead with the popular votes. When Joe Biden won Georgia, Nevada, and Pennsylvania (some of the key battleground states) Trump’s campaign alleged counting irregularities.
In the light of such events, President Donald Trump took to Twitter, incessantly posting tweets about “election fraud” and that “his victory” was stolen from him. Twitter and Facebook have recently vowed to actively track down misinformation and apply strict policies against false news. Hence, Twitter began flagging Trump’s tweets that contained baseless and false information. On election day and the days that followed—Twitter flagged more than 17 of Trump’s tweets with a “This claim… is disputed” alert.
This infraction caused widespread angst among the far-right. So, it was only a matter of time before they would seek refuge in another platform. Enter Parler—a free speech, no censorship social network that has become increasingly popular, post-election. The app was downloaded nearly 1 million times since election day—with a majority of downloads between November 3rd and November 8th. Parler’s partners are right-wing politicians and celebrities, while their affiliates are far-right media channels and outlets.
When you download the app, you will be prompted to follow a list of accounts including Senator Ted Cruz, Fox News host Sean Hannity, and far-right political commentator Dinesh D’Souza.
Parler attracts the likes of Proud Boys, QAnon followers, anti-government radicals, and white supremacists. The Anti-Defamation League calls it “a haven for extremists.” Some common dialogues on the platform revolve around claims of a COVID-19 hoax and Presidential election voter fraud. There is no fact-checking process in place and most of the news shared on the platform is from unverified sources. The presence of Fox News and Daily Mail is quite evident as well, fueling conspiracy theories and affirming the conservative beliefs around voter fraud dialogues.
Fake news that is often censored and monitored on Facebook and Twitter is not controlled on Parler. Conservative users have flocked to Parler to find and share opinions and dialogues that reinforce and reflect opinions similar to theirs—an echo chamber for viewpoints that are supported by incomplete and unverified sources. For them, it is a safe place to speak freely without any scrutiny or fear of being flagged or removed.
A Facebook group called “Stop the Steal” was created as a result of the democratic win and the delegitimization of the election process. The group quickly gained 365,000 members within two days. Facebook removed the group based on the angry rhetoric of the group and concerns of supporters showing up armed to protests. The hashtag #StoptheSteal now has about 229,000 mentions on Parler.
The “mass migration” of the far-right to Parler makes us wonder if the platform will continue to thrive—producing linear-minded viewpoints or will its users miss trolling those with differing opinions and deflect back to Twitter and Facebook? Either way—Parler is adding fuel to a fire that was built on conspiracy theories, fake news, and ‘enemy’ mentality—a fire that desperately needs to be contained.