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Parler: what is known about the popular social network among Trump supporters

On January 11, the social network Parler became inaccessible to its users due to the fact that the Internet giant Amazon decided to refuse to provide it with hosting. Writes about it with the BBC.

Photo: Shutterstock

As explained in Amazon, all because of the "calls to violence" in this social network, which positions itself as a "social network of freedom of speech."

Earlier, for the same reasons, Google and Apple removed Parler from their smartphone app stores - they linked the social network to the recent riots in the US Congress, which killed five people.

Parler owners and fans call this an attack on free speech by the monopolists.

How Parler became popular

Parler social network appeared in 2018.

It positions itself as an alternative to old social networks like Twitter and Facebook, which, according to Parler users, have too much moderation and censorship.

The word Parler itself means "to speak" in French.

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The creators of Parler stated that the platform was designed for supporters of various ideologies, but gradually it became popular among right-wing conservative users - first from the United States and then from around the world.

Its popularity grew in waves of new users from different countries.

For example, in 2019 there was an influx of thousands of new users from Saudi Arabia - supporters of Crown Prince Mohammad ibn Salman (who is associated with the murder of journalist Khashoggi and is considered "Putin's friend")

And in 2020, the voters of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who professes ultra-right views and supports Trump, joined.

And the special popularity of the new social network was brought by the last presidential elections in the United States, during which the application became one of the most frequently downloaded free applications in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store around the world.

The social network turned into a kind of outpost for Donald Trump's supporters, who discussed accusations of "vote rigging" there.

Trump himself does not have a page on this platform, but in 2020, when it began to gain popularity, several influential figures of the American conservative movement opened their accounts there. In particular, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who has 4,9 million subscribers, and Fox News presenter Sean Hannity, with 7 million subscribers.

Parler, headquartered in Nevada, calls its product a free and impartial social network where you can speak out "without cuts."

The moderation process there is not as strict as in the massively popular counterparts.

For example, it is allowed to publish porn there - "an image, video or description of a naked body or adult sex." Moreover, such content is designated as "delicate".

At the same time, the rules prohibit any “sexualization of minors”.

Also, the social network declares the fight against false information - but only if it is recognized by such a court.

“We are deleting discussions or comments found to be defamatory in a court that has jurisdiction over Parler. But we try not to draw our own conclusions about the truth or falsity of Parler's statements, ”says the rules of the social network.

This approach has made Parler an extremely popular platform among radicals, supporters of "alternative points of view", denouncers of "conspiracy theories" and conspiracy theorists, whose posts and pages have been actively banned in recent years on mainstream social networks.

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For example, in recent days there have been vigorously discussing and commenting on the proposal to burn down the Capitol with Speaker Nancy Pelosi inside, calls for the assassination of Vice President Mike Pence, who officially declared Biden's victory, the poll "Which Democrats should be killed first", as well as conspiracy theories about that the storming of the Capitol was in fact not “Trumpists”, but their opponents - activists of the “Antifa” movement.

In total, over 10 million users have registered with Parler in recent days, 4 million of which are considered active.

More and more in the social network and users from Ukraine, in particular representatives of right-wing organizations.

They throw old social networks deleting their posts, as well as ignoring messages and accounts of the leaders of the so-called DPR and LPR, which are officially considered terrorist organizations.

"Russian trace"

At the same time, Ukrainian users are concerned that one of the founders of Parler, American John Matze, is married to “Russian patriot” Alina Mukhutdinova from Kazan.

This gives rise to discussions about the impact of the Russian "bot farm" through the social network, and a new conspiracy theory links John Matze's visit to Russia in 2017, when he married Mukhutdinova, with Russian money - the platform was launched just a year later.

“John and Alina traveled across Russia and Europe from December to July 2018. They then return to Vegas and immediately launch Parler with Jared Thomson. A beautiful story, isn't it! Now on the Parler platform, Trump supporters are gathering at a frantic pace, who are easy to pump up with stories about "Crucified boys", even about a global conspiracy - the Kremlin's technologies for pumping social media users are well developed, especially if the content of the network is almost not moderated. Although in Parler, officially, and there are no anonymous users (to create an account, you need to take a picture with a driver's license), but tools for "pumping the crowd", to a state of hysteria, more than enough ", - writes Vladislav Olenchenko thinking about possible Russian support for the network.

Alina Mukhutdinova herself reacted to such rumors with a photo on Instagram with a gun and an inscription about “Russian spies”.

And in Parler they talk about legal investors not connected with the Russian Federation.

Day Troy network analyst and disinformation specialist created a series of tweets about Russia's involvement in the creation of the social network.

“Something doesn't add up. John accidentally meets a girl, travels to Russia, marries her, and then returns to the US to create a strange social network with explicit political goals in partnership with operations agreed with Russia, Troy writes. - In addition, preliminary analysis of the first several thousand accounts on Parler shows that these were ordinary operatives connected with Russia, whom we have been tracking in the social media space for many years. This is a large-scale operation that meets Russia's interests. "

“This is not some technical dude with free speech who is just trying to let people do their thing,” the specialist notes. "This is a calculated political and economic attack on US interests, and we must treat it accordingly."

Parler problems

Serious difficulties in the social network "free speech" began after the riots in the United States on January 6, when supporters of Donald Trump stormed the Capitol.

Google and Apple have responded by removing the program from their smartphone stores.

“According to our long-standing rules, apps displaying user generated content must have moderation principles and mechanisms that would eliminate egregious content such as posts calling for violence,” Google said in a statement.

“Given that right now it poses a serious threat to society, we are removing this application from our store until these problems are resolved,” they added.

And Apple sent a letter to Parler. It says that, according to Apple, Trump supporters used Parler's social network to organize an attack on the Capitol.

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To this, Parler Chairman John Matze replied that the platform does not have tools for organizing events.

Apple also said in a statement that the results of their investigation revealed a lack of moderation on the social network, despite the fact that its principles are laid down in the terms of use of Parler. The platform does not delete posts that pose serious risks to the life and health of people, and also promote illegal activities, according to Apple.

Then, on January 11, Amazon refused to host Parler.

The social network could not find another repository, so the site and all its services and applications became unavailable.

Amazon hosts a huge number of sites, even very large ones. He informed Parler that he found 98 posts calling for violence on this social network.

Matze blamed Amazon and the big tech giants for a coordinated attack on free speech and in an attempt to destroy competition in the free market. He also said that the social network may be unavailable for users for a week, as it will have to rebuild its site again.

"We will not bend under politically motivated campaigns and authoritarian dictators who hate free speech!" - he wrote earlier on his social network.

CNN reviewed a letter from Amazon Web Services (AWS), which provides technical support and cloud services, to the second in charge of Parler Amy Peikoff, who is responsible for making company policy.

It says that this social network is not in accordance with the AWS user agreements.

“AWS provides technology and services to customers across the political spectrum, and we will not fail to respect Parler's right to determine for itself what content will be allowed on its site. However, we cannot provide services to a client who is unable to promptly detect and remove content that incites or encourages violence, ”explained Amazon.

At the same time, there are reports on the network about a likely large leak of Parler users' data. How true this information is, the company does not say.

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