Parler: Twitter users flocking to alternative social media to 'engage without censorship'

This illustration picture shows social media application logo from Parler displayed on a smartphone with its website in the background in Arlington, Virginia, on July 2, 2020. Amid rising turmoil in social media, Parler is gaining with prominent political conservatives who say their voices are being silenced by Silicon Valley giants. Parler, founded in Nevada in 2018, bills itself as an alternative to 'ideological suppression' at other social networks.
This illustration picture shows social media application logo from Parler displayed on a smartphone with its website in the background in Arlington, Virginia, on July 2, 2020. Amid rising turmoil in social media, Parler is gaining with prominent political conservatives who say their voices are being silenced by Silicon Valley giants. Parler, founded in Nevada in 2018, bills itself as an alternative to "ideological suppression" at other social networks. | OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images

Parler, the social media app that’s billed as a platform for free and open dialogue, said it would continue to counter “technocronyism” following Twitter's announcement that it would be cracking down on accounts and censoring content it deems as harmful.

After Twitter released a statement Tuesday saying it would be permanently banning accounts, a spokesperson for the social media giant told NBC News that some 150,000 accounts would be affected. 

“We’ve been clear that we will take strong enforcement action on behavior that has the potential to lead to offline harm. In line with this approach ... we are taking further action on so-called ‘QAnon’ activity across the service,” Twitter said last week.

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QAnon, which is followed by more than 3 million people on various social media platforms, has posited that deep state elites are entrenched in such things as the occult and sex trafficking. However, many on the left and right view QAnon as a source of conspiracy theories and misinformation.

Numerous complaints have been levied against Twitter over the years for its censorship of conservatives, Christians, and pro-life groups, including the banning of ads and effectively muting accounts by shadowbanning users' posts. Because of this, many Twitter users have opened accounts with Parler and are encouraging others to follow suit. 

Parler, which has 2.7 million users, says it doesn’t “censor content based on politics or ideology,” or “mine or sell user data." And it will "continues to stand with the people and against technocronyism."

The app was co-founded by John Matze Jr. and Jared Thomson, both of whom studied computer science at the University of Denver, according to Fox Business. Matze is Parler's CEO and Thomson is the company's CTO. 

On June 25, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, announced on Twitter that he'd joined Parler. He cited big tech’s shadowbanning and the “silencing of those with whom they disagree” as his reasons for jumping on board. 

“I’m proud to join @parler_app — a platform that gets what free speech is all about — and I’m excited to be a part of it. Let’s speak. Let’s speak freely. And let’s end the Silicon Valley censorship. Follow me there,” Cruz tweeted.

Jessica Scaggs, deputy press secretary for Cruz, told The Christian Post that social media companies are threatening the future of democracy.

“Time and time again, big tech and their Silicon Valley billionaire overlords have failed the American people," she said. "They silence those with whom they disagree with, from conservative media organizations like The Federalist to the President of the United States and millions of Americans in between.

“They (big tech companies) threaten the integrity of our elections and the future of our democracy. That’s why Sen. Cruz has joined Parler — an unbiased social media platform where he can engage with the American people without censorship. In the Senate, Sen. Cruz will continue working to hold big tech accountable to the American people.”

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who joined Parler in 2018 when it was launched, welcomed Cruz and Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., to the platform by posting a message on Twitter, saying: "It’s about time y’all joined me on @parler_app. What’s taking the rest of you so long?!"

Also on the platform is Lila Rose, president and founder of the pro-life group Live Action, who spoke at the White House summit on big tech and social media censorship last year. 

At the summit, Rose said Live Action had not only been barred from doing any advertising on Twitter, but their accounts had been periodically shut down for espousing pro-life views.

"They told us that in order to reinstate our accounts we'd have to stop calling for the defunding of Planned Parenthood and stop sharing our pro-life content," Rose said at the time.

While President Donald Trump is not on Parler, the Trump 2020 Campaign, Eric Trump and his wife, Laura Trump, have accounts on the platform. 

Free speech advocate and author of Don’t Burn This Book, Dave Rubin, who's also on Parler, noted that Twitter frequently fails to remove hate speech and threats of violence from leftist groups and terrorist organizations. He replied directly to Twitter Safety last week with the quip, “Antifa and Hamas totally cool though.” 

An example of violence-inciting speech that continues to be allowed on Twitter is the hashtag #killalljews that first trended in 2015 and can still be found today.

Additionally, many Twitter users said they were locked out of their accounts last week for using the Star of David as their profile photo. The users were subsequently notified that the symbol of Judaism has been deemed a symbol of hate by the social media giant, which announced Thursday that it now has 186 million daily users.

The Jerusalem Post reported that the Campaign Against Antisemitism had been contacted by "several Twitter users ... to report that their accounts had been locked by the social media platform." 

Users explained that they also received a message from Twitter that said: "‘We have determined that this account violated the Twitter Rules. Specifically for: Violating our rules against posting hateful imagery. You may not use hateful images or symbols in your profile image or profile header. As a result, we have locked your account.’"

“The Star of David has been for almost two centuries a symbol of Judaism and Jewish identity for a people who were stateless,” said Parler Strategic Investor Jeffrey Wernick in a statement shared with The Christian Post. 

“For me as a Jew, it symbolizes my love for Judaism, which does not conflict in any way with my love for my nation and my love for humanity," he added. "To designate it, if the allegations are true, as a hateful image, is not only an act of hate but also likely libelous and slanderous. The desire to remove a symbol of my Jewish identity as 'hateful imagery' is, to me, no different than the desire to remove me as hateful just because I am Jewish."

Even though Parler bills itself as a venue for free speech, it does stipulate that users must follow its rules against defamation, spam, blackmail and porn. 

It also does not allow terrorist organizations or support thereof, unsolicited ads,  fighting words or threats to harm, indecency, obscenity, impersonation or plagiarism, and bribery.

Some on the left have tested Parler's free speech limits by posting sexually explicit images and fecal matter to harass users. Those accounts were summarily banned from Parler, The Washington Post reported. 

Twitter, meanwhile, does allow pornography. In an interview on the "Joe Rogan Podcast" in March 2019, Jack Dorsey, co-founder and CEO of Twitter, said porn will never be banned on the platform. 

According to CNBC, Parler's prominence grew last month after The Wall Street Journal reported that the Trump campaign was looking for social media alternatives amid concerns that its messages and ads could be censored by Facebook and Twitter. 

Two days after the WSJ report, "Parler was the top-ranked iPhone app in the news category, ahead of Twitter and Reddit, and 24th overall, just behind Venmo and WhatsApp, according to App Annie," CNBC reported

Matze told CNBC that "user growth surged to 1.5 million from 1 million over the course of about a week" in June. 

While some have called Parler the “conservative alternative to Twitter,” Matze said the app wasn't created to cater to Republicans; it just attracted Republicans who felt disenfranchised by other social media platforms. Matze told Forbes that he's aware the majority of the app’s users are conservative, and he's working on drawing more liberals to the platform. 

"He’s so intent on getting some liberals onto the platform that he’s offering a $20,000 'progressive bounty' for an openly liberal pundit with 50,000 followers on Twitter or Facebook to start a Parler account," CNBC reported of Matze, who's not affiliated with any political party. 

"The whole company was never intended to be a pro-Trump thing," Matze said. "A lot of the audience is pro-Trump. I don't care. I'm not judging them either way."

Melissa Barnhart contributed to this report 

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