The Free Internet Project

What is Parler? An "unbiased social media"? Or platform for conservative Republicans?

Parler (French for "to talk") is a social media plafform started in 2018. Its mission is to be “an unbiased social media focused on real user experiences and engagement." It is touted as an alternative to Twitter that allows users to post content and comment like Twitter--without political bias. Many Republican politicians who believe Twitter is biased against conservatives, have migrated to Parler and are promoting it as a platform. Since Twitter and Snapchat recently moderated some of Donald Trump’s posts that have violated their community standards, conservative Republicans have switched to Parler. Ted Cruz joined Parler as did three Republican politicians Jim Jordan, Elise Stefanik and Nikki Haley, as CNBC reported. Parler may become Republican lawmaker’s and Trump's favorite social media site. Trump’s campaign manager Brad Parscale accused Twitter and Facebook for biased censorship and stated that the campaign team may select an alternative platform, such as Parlor, as reported by the Wall Street Journal. Parler ranked top news app in Apple’s app store and has 1.5 million users in 2020. By comparison, Twitter has over 145 million active users

Content moderation by Internet platforms has become a hot-button issue. In the past, platforms took permissive approaches in the name of free speech, but they soon realized the need to moderate some objectionable content posted by their user. Most people would agree with the idea that despite the importance of free expression and free flow of information, allowing everyone to post anything online may lead to false, illegal, and harmful content being shared. So Internet companies must exercise some moderation of user content, but the unsolved puzzle is: what the standards should be and who should decide them.

Touted by Republicans, Parler attracted many new users in the past few days. However, some users realized that the new hyped platform was not free of content moderation. Besides restraining the commonly prohibitive content outlined in Parler’s Community Guidelines such as spam, fighting words, pornography and criminal solicitation, Parler also makes clear in its User Agreement: “Parler may remove any content and stop your access to the Services at any time and for any reason or no reason, although Parler endeavors to allow all free speech that is lawful and does not infringe the legal rights of others … Although the Parler Guidelines provide guidance to you regarding content that is not proper, Parler is free to remove content and terminate your access to the Services even where the Guidelines have been followed.”

Some users who are liberals were reportedly banned from Parler. Techdirt compiled some of the user who were banned. Parler's banning of liberal users does not appear to be consistent with its motto as an "unbiased social media."  Even some conservative commentators criticized Parler for not abiding by its privacy policy as it asked for a driver's license from its users. The goal of a politically unbiased Internet platform may be a worthy one. But it remains to be seen whether Parler provides such a space. 

--written by Candice Wang


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