Facts about Parler: Profile, History, Founder, Future and Everything to Know
The social media website Parler Photo: CNN

What is Parler?

Parler, founded in 2018, bills itself as "unbiased social media" and a place where people can "speak freely and express yourself openly without fear of being 'deplatformed' for your views," according to its website and App Store description. It looks like a mashup of Twitter (TWTR) and Instagram, with its main feed, follower counts and ways to share posts and links.

The social media platform has been heavily used by supporters of President Donald Trump, including some who participated in Wednesday's US Capitol unrest, according to CNN.

Many conservative politicians and media personalities have become active on Parler. Among those who have been active on Parler include Fox News host Sean Hannity, radio personality Mark Levin, far-right activist Laura Loomer, Senator Ted Cruz and Congressman Devin Nunes. Eric Trump also has an account verified by Parler as does Donald Trump's presidential campaign.

What's fueling its growth?

Facebook (FB), Twitter and other social networks stepped up efforts to crack down on misinformation leading up to and following the presidential election in November. That led many prominent conservatives to claim that their voices have been disproportionately censored. Twitter hid dozens of President Donald Trump's tweets in the weeks following the election, and both platforms banned Trump last week following the siege of the Capitol that he encouraged in speeches and on social media.

Although Facebook and Twitter are still awash with misinformation and hate, to Trump's supporters, the steps Big Tech has taken to slow the spread of misinformation amounts to censorship. And some are seeking alternative homes online.

In a tweet shortly after Election Day, Fox News host Maria Bartiromo echoed a rallying cry of many prominent conservative voices: "I will be leaving [Twitter] soon and going to Parler. Please open an account on @parler right away." (Bartiromo remains on Twitter.)

A substantial number of users have followed these voices onto the platform, fueled by complaints over actions major social media platforms have taken against election misinformation and false allegations of voter fraud, such as disputing claims with fact-check labels.

That helped Parler top the charts of the Apple (AAPL) and Android app stores.

Why is it controversial?

Facts about Parler: Profile, History, Founder, Future and Everything to Know
Users on Parler increased from 4.5 million to 8 million amid the US election. Photo: AFP

Parler is rife with misinformation, including a stream of baseless allegations of voter fraud. The platform has become a hub of Trump-backed conspiracy theories casting doubt on the election of President-elect Biden.

Accounts with swastikas as their profile pictures and disgusting racist posts are not hard to come by on Parler. Members of the Proud Boys, adherents of conspiracy theory QAnon, anti-government extremists and white supremacists all openly promote their views on Parler, according to an ADL report.

"Holocaust denial, antisemitism, racism and other forms of bigotry are also easy to find," the ADL said.

Both extremists and "mainstream conservatives" are using the app to organize and recruit for pro-Trump events, such as the Capitol siege and the "Million MAGA March" in Washington DC, according to the ADL.

Apple said Parler posts include numerous "direct threats of violence and calls to incite lawless action." The company said the processes Parler put in place to moderate or prevent the spread of dangerous and illegal content are "insufficient."

Who's behind it?

Facts about Parler: Profile, History, Founder, Future and Everything to Know
Rebekah Mercer in 2017 Photo: CNN

Parler was founded by Rebekah Mercer, John Matze and Jared Thomson.

Mercer, a prominent conservative donor, said she is helping to bankroll 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," she said in a statement in November.

Mercer is the daughter of Robert Mercer, a hedge fund manager and the co-founder of the now-defunct political data-analysis firm Cambridge Analytica. The Mercers have been prominent supporters of President Donald Trump and conservative causes.

For years, the Mercers have been key benefactors of conservative groups, ranging from the Heritage Foundation think tank, where Rebekah Mercer serves on the board of trustees, to organizations that have produced anti-Hillary-Clinton books and movies.

Which operating systems have banned it and why?

Amazon on Sunday said it would cut Parler off from its web hosting service for breaches of its guidelines, meaning the platform could go down if a new host isn't found by Sunday evening, said Euronews.

The move by the e-commerce colossus came after both Google and Apple took the app off their online shelves for not addressing threats of violence.

"For us to distribute an app through Google Play, we do require that apps implement robust moderation for egregious content," Google said in a statement.

“In light of this ongoing and urgent public safety threat, we are suspending the app's listings from the Play Store until it addresses these issues".

In response, Matze said: "We won't cave to politically-motivated companies and those authoritarians who hate free speech!"

Apple cited "content that threatens the well-being of others or is intended to incite violence or other lawless acts" for the reason Parler was suspended from its own app store.

Facts about Parler: Profile, History, Founder, Future and Everything to Know

Photo: Businessinsider

It gave the platform 24 hours to "remove all objectionable content from your app... as well as any content referring to harm to people or attacks on government facilities now or at any future date".

Parler was also asked to provide a plan "to moderate and filter this content" from its pages.

Matze hit out at Apple, saying it was applying standards to his platform that it did not fulfill itself.

"Apparently they believe Parler is responsible for ALL user-generated content on Parler, Therefor (sic) by the same logic, Apple must be responsible for ALL actions taken by their phones," he said.

What does the future hold for Parler, with big tech turning their backs on it? Its founder says the Amazon snub could mean it might be "unavailable" for up to a week while it is remade "from scratch".

How is Parler different from Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit?

Parler is a little like Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit all combined, with a mashup of features from these social platforms. This also means it’s all very messy looking. The user interface has a lot of maturing to do if Parler wants itself taken seriously. It's aesthetically unpleasing and very glitch, Sea.mashable.com reported.

One can follow other Parler users, tag those users in their posts, “echo” other content — the equivalent of a share or retweet — and upvote posts they like. It’s a lot.

There's one interesting feature to hand to Parler, though: Parler verification basically allows any user to confirm they are who they say they are. When a user submits a form of identification to Parler, they will receive a badge that shows other users that the platform has confirmed their identity.

This isn’t the equivalent of Twitter verification with blue checkmarks, though. Parler does have their own version of that, with gold badges for “Verified Influencers.” And, while many conservatives complain about people with “blue checkmarks” being handed VIP treatment on Twitter, Parler seems to promote their Verified Influencers even more. There’s even a "Discover" section that pushes content purely from these influencers.

But the biggest thing that sets Parler apart from other social media platforms is that users will find it’s almost impossible to use it without encountering conservative political content. That’s pretty much the entire user base, and it's all they post about. There’s no other social media site like that (except maybe Facebook...OK, I kid! Sort of).

Can users say anything they want on Parler?

No. Parler, like other social networks, has a list of rules that users agree to when they join the site. Parler doesn't allow terrorists, spam, unsolicited ads, pornography, threats to harm, blackmail, and content that glorifies violence against animals.

The site doesn't have rules against hate speech, but it does have policies against obscene content, meaning content that's sexual in nature, offensive and lacks "serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value."

The company's user agreement also says that the site may remove any content or bar a user's access "at any time and for any reason or no reason" but that the site "endeavors to allow all free speech that is lawful and does not infringe the legal rights of others."

Users who joined Parler to mess with fans of Trump took to Twitter to complain they'd been booted from the platform.

In June, Matze said in a post on Parler that you can't "spam" others in comments with "unrelated comments" that include profanity or threats to kill someone.

"If ever in doubt, ask yourself if you would say it in the streets of New York or national television," he wrote.

Users can also mute or block other accounts, like on Twitter and Facebook.

What's the future for Parler?

Parler now finds itself virtually homeless on the internet as Amazon, Apple and Google (GOOGL) have all booted it from their platforms in a span of a little more than 24 hours.

Amazon (AMZN) will remove Parler from its cloud hosting service, Amazon Web Services, Sunday evening, effectively kicking it off of the public internet after mounting pressure from the public and Amazon employees.

The decision, which goes into force on Sunday at 11:59 p.m. Pacific time will shut down Parler's website and app until it can find a new hosting provider.

Even if it find a new host, Parler's staying power is an open question. Over the years, cries of censorship have prompted several alternatives to crop up, such as Gab, 4chan and 8chan. However, none have yet succeeded in creating a long-lasting and robust right-leaning platform. These smaller players lack the resources of big companies like Facebook, their infrastructure can buckle under the pressure of increased traffic and they typically don't have all the features of other social platforms that users are accustomed to.

Will Trump abandon Twitter and Facebook for Parler?

Facts about Parler: Profile, History, Founder, Future and Everything to Know

Trump's reelection campaign joined the social media app Parler in 2018. Photo: Cnet

It seems highly unlikely. Twitter and Facebook have a much bigger reach than Parler. Trump's campaign has a Parler account, @TeamTrump, with roughly 2.2 million followers. The campaign has 2.3 million followers on Twitter and 2 million followers on Facebook, according to Cnet.

Trump's personal account, however, has an even bigger audience on Twitter, with 89 million followers. On Facebook, he has 34 million followers.

In May, while signing an executive order intended to curtail legal protections social media companies get for content posted by users, the president was asked if he'd consider deleting his Twitter account.

Trump said he uses social media to push back against what he described as unfair media coverage and noted that the number of followers he has on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter is more than the reach that media companies have.

"I put something out and the next day or the next hour or the next minute everybody's reading about it," he said.

Trump added that he thinks he'd be hurting Twitter "very badly" if he didn't use the platform anymore and that he'd shut down the company if he found a legal way to do so.

"We have other sites we could use, I guess," Trump said.

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