Parler is an American social media platform founded in 2018. Parler markets itself as a platform to speak freely and express yourself openly. Its users mainly consists of conservatives, conspiracy theorists, and far-right extremists. Posts on Parler are referred to as “parleys which comes from the French word “parlay” (meaning “to speak”), but has since been changed to be pronounced as “parlor.” Parleys cannot be individually searched for using the post’s text content, so users apply hashtags to posts that they wish to disseminate into different groups.
Parler has recently been a hot topic of discussion for several news outlets, as reports have come out with evidence that it harbored several coordinators of the 2021 storming of the United States Capitol. Media personalities, such as Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, and Laura Loomer are active on the site, as well as conservative politicians such as Senator Ted Cruz and Congressman Devin Nunes. 
HistoryJohn Matze Jr., and Jared Thomson, both University of Denver computer science alumni and former college roommates, alongside Rebekah Mercer in August 2018. The company is headquartered in Handerson, Nevada. In 2018, it launched on both Android and Apple platforms and was the most download app of the year.
Parler was developed as a response to the increased moderation of accounts on more widely used social media platforms. The founders’ mission for the platform was to offer an alternative to social media giants like Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, and Youtube, with the main difference being prioritization of free-speech and an uncensored experience.
A significant portion of Parler’s user base consists high-profile conservative Republican commentators, media personalities, and politicians, many of whom came onto the Parler platform after losing their accounts on larger social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter due to violations to the platforms’ terms of service. According to a study done by Disqo, Parler is saturated with a high volume of Republicans (62%) and Independents (20%). Overall, there was a nearly equal representation of both men and women on the app. For users ages 18-25, there was a significantly larger number of men than there were women (72% and 28% respectively). Most users were about the age of 45, and from both the South and mountain states.
Parler had a major surge in popularity between the years 2019 and 2021. In June 2019, there was a growth of 200,00 users from Saudi Arabia(Reuters). This was suspected to be in response to the suspension of six Twitter accounts from Saudi Arabia, one of which being a large news outlet. This large spike in Parler’s user base consisted of several Saudi nationalist accounts, as well as ordinary individuals from Saudi Arabia. 
In June 2020, Parler’s downloads also rose exponentially, from 1,700 downloads at the beginning of the month, to 143,00 towards the end. During June and July of 2020, Parler rose to the top of the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store.
The third growth spot Parler had was in November of 2020 during the 2020 presidential election. This was the platform's most drastic increase in users - registering up to 7029 new users per minute. Notable figures such as Fox News host Maria Bartiromo said they were leaving Twitter permanently for Twitter.  Just in the week leading up to Election Day, the app was downloaded around one million times. Around this time, many mainstream news outlets began to give heavy coverage to the platform. This was due to conspiracy theories such as QAnon, child trafficking, and the Stop the Steal conspiracy being heavily discussed on the platform. Additionally, growth can be attributed to the nature of the app as an “echo-chamber,” where misinformation spreads profusely. 
Parler is one of many examples of right-wing “alt-tech” platforms which aim to provide an alternative form of social media to the current mainstream choices such as Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube. Other right-wing alt-tech platforms include Gab, Bitchute, 4chan, and 8chan which have a “laissez-faire” approach to content moderation.  A consequence of this moderation style is the use for these platforms to spread hate-speech, conspiracy theories, and misinformation.
Parler brands itself as an unbiased and uncensored free-speech platform with extremely low moderation. As a consequence, any and all kinds of information, including misinformation, is widespread on the platform. Parler is notorious for its homophobic, racist, misogynistic, and anti-semetic content, as well as holds responsibility in spreading the QAnon conspiracy theory. Additionally, before updating its guidelines towards the end of 2020, Parler harbored large amounts of pornographic and obscene content.
Due to the lack of moderation, many posts on Parler contain misinformation and misleading content. According to an analysis done on Parler’s posts, 87% of the links shared on the website led to sites notorious for misinformation.  These websites focused on spreading islamophobic, anti-semetic, and other racist content. The platform was also a prominent actor in spreading misinformation about the 2020 American presidential election, where many posts claimed that the election was fraudulent.
One of the most well-known conspiracy theories is Q-Anon . There are a large amount of Americans, including congress members Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert, who believe in this theory, which, in summary, claims that a cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles, including several Democratic leaders, run a global child sex-trafficking ring to extract an immortality chemical called adrenochrome. The theory says that Donald Trump was recruited by the U.S. military to destroy this ring. Because of the nature of Parler, new layers of misinformation are constantly being added to the theory through the app. Additionally, when Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter banned content promoting QAnon on their platforms in October 2020, many supporters migrated to Parler, making it a hub for the conspiracy theory.
In November 2020, several posts were made by a verified account under the name Ron Watkins, the son of 8chan owner Jim Watkins, claiming that his father was the alleged Q(whom supporters believe to be a government insider with access to information on the cabal). It was eventually revealed that co-founder of Anonymous had changed the name of an already-verified account to Watkins’, revealing the lack in security of Parler.
Following the insurrection, a security researcher known as donk_enby discovered a vulnerability which allowed them to scrape over 80 TB of Parler data.  This attack was possible due to a vulnerability where users with admin/moderation privileges had access to data of all posts registered on the website. Hackers were able to find the users with these privileges and gain access to their accounts. 
Following this exploit, hackers were able to extract all the data from the Parler database. The data scraped contained EXIF information, which details metadata of users such as their location and time. Since Parler didn’t erase the metadata, the scraped information revealed sensitive information about their users such as GPS coordinates of their households.  Over 68,000 users had their locations revealed from this data scraping incident, This scraped data also included all deleted posts since Parler did not erase any deleted post from their system. 
Parler was accused to have had a major role in contributing to the insurrection on the Capitol in January of 2021.  Around 2,000 posts on Parler, supporting the riots were marked with the hashtag #stormthecapitol. On top of planning, users took to Parler to share videos  of themselves entering the White House. This was the tipping point for Amazon Web Services to eliminate the Parler's web hosting, due to a failure to "effectively identify and remove content that encourages or incites violence against others."
After the storming of the US capitol on January 6, 2021, unprecedented responses were required by tech companies to regulate and control extremist content on their platforms. After the removal of Parler from app stores and web services, there were several questions raised about the implications of these actions with regards to freedom of speech and the potential overreach of tech companies. These decisions are often made by a handful of individuals within a handful of companies, which can lead to issues related to transparency and due process.
Researcher Joan Donavan spoke about content moderation in the tech stack and communication methods by technology corporations, claiming, “Regulation to curb hateful content online cannot begin and end with platform governance. Platforms are part of a larger online media ecosystem, in which the biggest platforms not only contribute to the spread of hateful content, but are themselves an important vector of attack. It is imperative that corporate policies be consistent with regulation on hate speech across many countries. Otherwise, corporate governance will continue to be not merely haphazard but potentially endangering for those who are advocating for the removal of hateful content online.” Given the rise of extremism in the last decade, governments and tech companies have struggled to find a balance between moderating extremist content and protecting freedom of speech.
After the storming of the Capitol, many parties were interested in Parler as an organizing hub for those who participated. On January 21, 2021, Carolyn B. Maloney of the House Oversight and Reform Committee formally requested the Federal Bureau of Investigation open a case regarding the platform’s connections to Russia, which could leave the company’s data vulnerable to Russian agencies. Additionally, hackers were able to scrape 80 terabytes of data from the platform before it was deleted. This archive contains over 1 million videos, most of which still contained GPS metadata, as well as deleted posts. This data encompasses nearly 99.9% of content ever published to Parler. The hacker team plans on releasing all “very incriminating” evidence obtained by the scraping, which could be used by law enforcement to continue cracking down on the violent protests. So far, there have been over 400 criminal cases, with hundreds of thousands of leads still being investigated.
Removal of Parler from app stores
Following the insurrection at the Capitol, several larger platforms, such as Google, Amazon, and Apple condemned the violence, with Amazon removing web hosting for Parler, and Apple and Google removing it from their App Stores, citing it as dangerous due to the lack of moderation, thereby encouraging threats of violence. Leaders at Parler claimed this to be an "attack on free speech" and an attempt to "kill competition in the marketplace."
One big concern has been about the limitations of choice in the virtual space. For example, AWS (Amazon Web Services) is the largest cloud provider, while Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform are also very large providers. Amazon told Parler that it had seen a steady increase in violent content on their website, which is a violation of their terms of service. If these companies all decided to ban the same content, the platform would have difficulty finding another hosting service. In essence, the saying “if you don’t like the rules, go somewhere else” doesn’t work if there’s nowhere else to go. In general, private companies have the right to refuse to host speech or support speech they don’t like, which can lead to broader ethical concerns. Removing or restricting content online, by definition, requires limiting individual rights, which speaks to the importance of the clear articulation of the ethical arguments behind these decisions.
Ultimately, Parler users claimed that tech companies are inherently biased again right-wing politics due to concerns about political correctness. According to Parler's mission, fact checking services are a violation of free speech. CEO John Matze says, "If you can say it on the streets of New York, you can say it on Parler. The service gained more popularity as controversy about Covid-19, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the 2020 Election sparked issue with what was considered fact and what was false information. 
Trump Twitter Ban
Among debates about silencing of conservatives by large companies came with a permanent ban of then-President Donald Trump. Twitter removed Trump "due to risk of inciting further violence." President Trump was found not-guilty during his Senate impeachment trial regarding his responsibility for the incident and subsequently was not removed from office. Despite this, Twitter said that Trump's ban is lifelong and permanent, even if he is re-elected as President, as he says he will run again in 2024. 
On February 15, 2021, Parler’s website went back online under a new web host, SkySilk Cloud Services, even after numerous other web hosting services declined their patronage, such as Google Cloud Platform, Oracle Cloud, DigitalOcean, and Epik (Epik is known for hosting far-right websites such as Infowars). SkySilk justifies their reasoning with the statement that SkySilk “does not advocate nor condone hate, rather, it advocates the right to private judgment and rejects the role of being the judge, jury, and executioner.” Parler does not retain any of the content that was posted before their removal from Amazon Web Services. In an effort to appease lost vendors, Parler has implemented a new content moderation policy. Using both human moderators and artificial intelligence, the platform now automatically hides threatening content or incitements of violence, as well as attacks on characteristics such as race, sex, sexual orientation, and religion. An “NSFW” (Not Safe For Work) filter automatically hides images with inappropriate content. As with any content moderation, these methods are not perfect and have allowed a significant amount of inappropriate content through. In addition, the filter can be bypassed in that users are still allowed to view the censored content by clicking a button that makes it visible again. Parler reapplied to Apple’s platform with these new guidelines in place, but was denied again.
John Matze says that Parler would rebuilt itself from scratch if necessary. Due to limitations from host servers this may require multiple rebuild attempts under various names or creating a host system itself. 
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