It’s been going on for years but in recent months it has ramped up: Conservatives accusing social media and tech companies of censoring them. Whether that censorship is truly happening or not, conservatives are beginning to act like it is. In response, they’re abandoning the social media you use for alternatives. In particular, they’re trading in their Twitter accounts for one on Parler.
Parler is basically the same as Twitter, only their platform promises not to engage in any of the censorship practices Twitter is accused of. They call themselves the “free speech” platform and there you won’t find fact checking or verifications designed to create friction between users and those peddling content which Twitter’s terms of service board deems dangerous.
What’s the truth here? What is Parler really?
MSNBC’s analysis is that it’s a dangerous source of misinformation. They say it’s a “closed echo chamber could help crystalize these beliefs quickly.” Whether that is the nature of the beast they are adamant that it doesn’t matter because they think Parler is a “false refuge”.
Parler does not actually face what it has set itself up to welcome — furious, beleaguered, anxious conservatives who want to find an online community that grants them some esteem and will fill a narrative void in their life.MSNBC
What makes Parler a false refuge? In short it’s because they’re facing the same pressures that Twitter faces, those of advertisers. Parler already bans users for various infractions like hate speech and trolling. MSNBC even accuses the platform of banning people for talking about dog poop.
On the flipside, conservative news outlet Newsmax claims Parler is “rapidly growing” and that it’s ready to challenge Twitter. One that they are convinced has the back of conservatives.
Maybe it does. One of the key investors in Parler was recently revealed to be conservative billionaire Rebekah Mercer. She’s the daughter of Robert Mercer, a man who made billions in artificial technology investing.
Newsmax’s claim that Parler is a legitimate refuge for conservatives almost seems to fly in the face of what the company is advertising itself as. Parler doesn’t bill itself as the free speech platform for conservatives, it’s supposed to be simply a free speech platform. That, by the way, was what Twitter once billed itself as too.
The days of Twitter claiming to be an open and free place for all communication are long gone. I suspect they won’t last long for Parler either. Right now the only people on Parler are disaffected conservatives. And while it isn’t exactly unfriendly to those who don’t identify as Trumpian, it’s hard to imagine why anyone who wasn’t steeped in that culture would want to spend any time there.
We opened a Parler account to see what’s going on. It’s @GFRobot. Trust us, no one there wants to talk about movies or technology. We’ve tried. Unless you’re on Parler to opine your unfair banning at the hands of Twitter, there’s no one interested in the conversation.
Don’t believe us? Here’s a screenshot of the top trending topics on Parler, right now…
Those will be the same top trending topics tomorrow, and the next day, and next week and next month. Because that’s all anyone talks about on Parler.
So who has it right here? MSNBC or Newsmax? Is Parler a dangerous echo chamber or is it the savior of a oppressed class who think they’re being run out of town on other social media platforms? We’re going to call this one for neither.
MSNBC is wrong to be worried about potential dangers. The conversation there is too dead and boring to be dangerous. Maybe it is an echo chamber, but so is every social media platform since they are now designed to wall users off in a bubble of confirmation bias. Parler doesn’t need walls yet, because the entire platform is one bubble. But it’s a difference which doesn’t matter and it means Parler is no more “dangerous” than anywhere else on the internet.
Newsmax is wrong to think Parler is some kind of refuge from the imagined ire of angry liberals. Because it’s a one topic ecosystem there’s no energy there, no life to anything that’s going on. There’s really no way to change that, because the only reason to go there is to talk about Twitter censorship and if you want to talk about something else, you can do that somewhere else. Eventually people will get tired of a one-topic social media platform and take a break somewhere else. When they do, they won’t come back.
Parler doesn’t have much of a future as anything at all. Neither do any of the other social media alternatives cropping up to cash-in on fears of tech-giant censorship. We’re stuck with Twitter, for better or worse. Starting another Twitter right next to the old one, is not the way to change that.