Red is the New Blue? Conservatives turn to Parler as “Safe Space”

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Red is the New Blue? Conservatives turn to Parler as “Safe Space” 

Parler made its way to mainstream social media with the promise of a “non biased, free speech social media focused on protecting user’s rights” according to Kate Cox of Ars Technica. The website which was launched in 2018 is gaining major traction among Conservatives and has now become a central hub for election protests including the “Stop the Steal” campaign following Trump’s loss.

The 2020 Presidential Elections may have not yet fully concluded but major media networks have already called it. Democrat Joe Biden, former Vice-President and Delaware Senator, is now the President Elect with Kamala Harris as his Vice-President. Biden defeated Trump on his reelection bid with 306 electoral votes and 80,117,001 current total votes tallied according to a live update by Bloomberg

But Trump is not yet backing down. In his press statement last November 6, he opened with a conspiracy theory claiming that Democrats were committing fraud and he was being cheated out of the election. He told reporters in the White House, “If you count the legal votes, I easily win.” He also added, “If you count the illegal votes, they can try to steal the election from us. If you count the votes that came in late, we’re looking into them very strongly.”

At least seven major TV networks cut his speech off including NBC, CBS, and NBC. 

“We have to interrupt here, because the president has made a number of false statements, including the notion that there has been fraudulent voting,” said NBC’s Lester Holt. “There has been no evidence of that.”

While many turn to Twitter and Facebook to tweet or post their thoughts about the election, Conservatives are jumping ship contending that the platforms’ move on flagging political misinformation is a guise to single out the voices of Conservatives. They feel suffocated with the warnings and censorships on their content which they believe are factual.

Conservative’s Take: Red is the new Blue

Emma Vatnsdal of Duluth News Tribune said: “Parler is growing in popularity, as more people in this politically divided environment are choosing to exist in echo chambers instead of taking in and arguing about politics on social media.”

Parler, a 2 year old social media website founded by conservative programmers John Matze and Jared Thomson, is dubbed by many as a Twitter clone crediting from its user interface and general functionality wherein users can post text and images which other users can reply to and echo which is equivalent to “retweet” in Twitter. It also has an upvote feature mimicking Reddit. Basically, it’s a mashup of different social media platforms according to Matt Binder of Mashable. 

And while there is a variety of content found on Twitter and Facebook, from funny videos to KPop news, attributed to a wide range of users, Parler is heavy on conservative political content. That is, after Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram have been actively fact-checking political information surrounding the 2020 US Presidential Elections posted on their respective platforms (including Trump’s tweets which have mainly acted as a catalyst of these unevidenced claims), conservatives turned to Parler to express their thoughts. “A haven, so to speak, where they felt their voices could be heard unmoderated and unfiltered, without fear of censorship or fact-checking,” Vatnsdal noted. 

One parsley user @Trump (Donald J Trump Supporters) parleyed (aka tweeted) “Twitter is the enemy of the people! ECHO if you agree!” which has already been viewed 465,000 times generating more than 7,000 echos and 10,000 upvotes. 

Barry Dresser, a Fargo resident and also a Parler user who joined last August, shared why he decided to sign up on the platform. “After Facebook started censoring content, I saw one of my friends post something about Parler,” Dresser said. “I had not previously heard of it and signed up so I had an outlet for political discussion without the censorship and without alienating any of my friends or family.”

But he did note that he still has not completely jumped ships and his Facebook remains active. He said, “I am still active on Facebook, and it is my main social media fix. I’ve been on it for many years and have made a habit of keeping my political views, for the most part, out of my regular posts. It’s been a way to stay in touch with friends and family that I don’t get a chance to see often enough.”

Aside from Dresser, there are also right-leaning politicians and celebrities on the platform. American author, Candace Owens, who joined the Parler community in December 2018 with a notable 2.7 million following on Twitter was the first who called to bail out on Twitter. 

Senator Ted Cruz and Representative Devin Nunes have also joined and have been active evangelizers of Parler. South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem has also chimed in according to a November 9 announcement on her Twitter. She has been warmly met quickly gaining 51,000 followers. 

Is Trump on Parler?

Amidst the wave of right-leaning politicians joining Parler and its more than 2.8 million followers (July 2020 data), one major persona is still missing: Trump. The President who currently has 88.8 million followers on Twitter is still being courted by Parler since at least June according to The Wall Street Journal. 

Parler is looking to bring Trump into the community amassing a sizable fraction of his followers to also shift out of Twitter and into Parler. Trump who directly challenged Fox News is reportedly planning to launch a right-wing digital media should he lose this Election but none has yet materialized. 

Is Parler really a “safe space” for Conservatives?

Many conservatives have signed up on Parler mainly due to its boasted “freedom” which lets users “say” what they want without the fear of being censored. But according to Binder, “For a social network that markets itself as a “free speech” platform, there’s a lot of prohibited content that’s censored on Parler – and it’s not content Parler is legally bound to “censor” either.”

He also added that this sounds like misinformation which contradicts the very reason that attracted conservative users to the platform. It is also important to note that claims of censorship on the social media giants are untrue. Facebook and Twitter don’t ban users on demerits of misinformation but actively advocate fact-checking among its user base by adding warning labels. 

Since Election Day, the site has recorded over 636,000 downloads tallying the total downloads to 3.6 million with over 2.8 million registered users. While the numbers are increasing following the highly tense political situation in the US, accounts remain dormant especially those owned by celebrities and politicians. Additionally, Parler still faces challenges to its website which might affect user experience. Nevertheless, conservatives are getting cozy in the platform without any frictional opposition to their “truths” and may continue to be a “safe space” for them. 

Will the atmosphere stick around, though? Only time can tell.

Thomas Lake

Resident tech nerd for the SF Times.