Parler’s social media platform, created by Denver grads, gives hate a new home

by Laraina Hailey

You’ve probably heard of Parler, the social media platform that describes itself as a place where users can “Speak freely and express yourself openly, without fear of being “deplatformed” for your views.” That ambiguous statement could also be read as follows: Discriminate freely and express your hate openly, without fear of being held accountable for the consequences of your actions.

“Parler’s viewpoint-neutral policies foster a community of individuals who tolerate the expression of all non-violent ideas,” according to Parler’s website. Apparently, “non-violent ideas” include fostering communities that attack equality for women, that legitimize the fight for white supremacy, that perpetuate oppressive stereotypes, and that support unproven conspiracy theories. All of which spread hatred. And hatred spreads violence.

So, why is Parler trending everywhere now?

Parler has an estimated 10 million accounts, about half of which were created in the past month, according to Market Watch.

Prior to the 2020 election, Parler was a relatively unknown social media app that was slowly taking hold with those who had been kicked off mainstream platforms for continuously violating social norms — you know, those rules designed to promote equal and civil treatment of everyone that social media has an impact upon.

November’s election results shocked the world, not so much for the accusations of widespread voter fraud, but for exposing the massive number of U.S. voters — upward of 47% — who were willing to openly support and rationalize overt hatred and its gut-wrenching consequences.

With cancel and hashtag culture gaining strength over the past few years, most social media sites have been forced to assume some responsibility for their role in allowing hatred to become a pandemic. Removing accounts that repeatedly violated anti-hate and anti-violence guidelines seemed to be an effective way to vaccinate social media against the disease that is hatred.

And more recently, during the election runup and its aftermath, social media platforms began tagging certain posts as false or with disclaimers about credibility. The result has been an increased migration of banned users who are searching for a platform to spread their disease.

If you build it they will comeSeeing an opportunity for the future monetization of displaced social media users, Parler was founded in 2018 by John Matze Jr. and Jared Thomson, both of whom studied computer science at the University of Denver. Matze is the CEO of Parler and describes himself as both averse to authority and conservative-minded.

An investment from the billionaire Republican donor Rebekah Mercer helped to launch Parlor. The platform quickly developed a cult-like following with a conservative user base that includes many prominent Republicans and supporters that include the Trump clan, Rudy Giuliani, senators Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, and the NRA, just to name a few.

Before the election, Parler had a few million accounts. While it is still a small platform compared to Twitter or Facebook, Parlor now has over 10 million accounts. That’s 10 million hate vectors.

Why create an incubator for hatred?Hate sells, and the primary goal of most developers is to monetize their product. In this climate, the fastest way to gain the critical mass of users necessary for monetization is to build a space for those looking to amplify their hate in an echo-chamber.

The big selling point for Parler is its unregulated environment. It does not restrict the posting of falsehoods or misinformation, the use of hate speech, or the propaganda of racist or sexist groups. As Matze told Forbes, “I think that’s all people want. That’s what they like.” As for helping to perpetuate hate, Matze said, “the best thing is for everyone to engage with a bad idea and shut it down through public discourse.”

But bad ideas aren’t “shut down” on any social media platform without the intervention of the platforms themselves. Matze knows this, but hate sells. It matters not that Parler’s echo chamber is infested with hate. What matters, rather, is that the company moves towards monetization.

Is Parler just a trend?Parler isn’t the first to try and monetize hate. Gab, who also tried this in 2017, is infamous as the safe-harbor for Robert Gregory Bowers, the gunman responsible for the mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue in October 2018. Although Gab saw an extensive amount of media coverage following the attack, it eventually failed to demonstrate an ability to convert hate into monetary profit.

Is Matze concerned about the dangers Parler is fomenting by facilitating the spread of hate and rage? Not likely. As he told Market Watch, “I’ve been kind of on my own island on Parler for a while. I don’t watch TV. I don’t do anything. I get everything off Parler.”

Hello-hello-hello, get out-get out-get out, of the echo chamber-of the echo chamber-of the echo chamber.

Laraina Hailey


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