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Parler Data Leak to Preserve Evidence Against Capitol Attackers

Michael Behr

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Parler

Over 56 TB of data has been archived from ‘free-speech’ social media app Parler in the aftermath of the invasion of the US Capitol.

Vast amounts of Parler user’s data, including ID and location, have been leaked and stored in the aftermath of the storming of the US Capitol.

The data could be used to help identify and prosecute perpetrators of the attack on the Capitol Building, which has been labelled as an act of domestic terrorism.

In the aftermath of the attack, Parler’s web hosting providers, Amazon Web Services (AWS) removed the app from its servers due to the increase in violent content violating the company’s terms of service. This has in effect removed the app from the internet.

Whilst this action could have potentially removed incriminating evidence against those involved in the invasion of the Capitol, a Twitter user with the handle @donk_enby has led efforts to archive every post on the website, starting from January 6, the day of the attack.

In all, around 56 terabytes of information and 110,000 video URLS have been downloaded and archived, including raw videos files that contain GPS metadata, allowing the exact locations where each video was recorded to be pinpointed.

Parler was built using popular free-to-use platform WordPress. As support for the app was removed, a vulnerability in a plug-in for the software was exploited, leaving a wealth of data from the platform freely accessible, including photos of US state IDs.

As such, the data can be used not only to identify the users but also tie them directly to the scene of the crime.

The hacker has been working with academics to parse the data. The aim is to upload the Internet Archive, where it will be free to view or download by anyone.

Aftermath

Founded in 2018, Parler entered public consciousness in the aftermath of the US Presidential Election and the subsequent defeat of US President Donald Trump.

The app marketed itself as a ‘free-speech’ social media platform, making it popular with many supporters on the so-called ‘alt-right’.

Its popularity exploded in the aftermath of the US election as conservative voices flocked to the app in the wake of the defeat of President Donald Trump. Twitter has long been Trump’s platform of choice – however, in the run-up to the election, the microblogging platform began fact-checking his Tweets, driving the President to accuse Twitter of censoring him.

However, its popularity has placed it in the spotlight after the January 6 storming of the US Capitol, which saw Trump supporters and members of other alt-right groups invade the Capitol Building, leading to the death of five people.

With the event denounced as an act of domestic terrorism, the role of Parler and other social media apps has been under scrutiny. Parler, as one of the most popular platforms for the alt-right, saw many people involved in the attack on the Capitol posting images and updates on their actions on the platform. There were some accounts of live streaming from the invaders.

The app is also being investigated for its role in helping the people plan the attack on the Capitol.

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In addition, Parler’s free speech stance meant that there were numerous death threats against members of the US government, alongside overt displays of racism and discussions of violent actions.

In the aftermath of the event, criminal proceedings are now underway against many of the those identified among the people involved, including arrests and placing those involved or suspected on no-fly lists.

As such, the download of information could potentially provide crucial evidence against participants involved in the attack.

The download is also further bad news for Parler. While the app may be unavailable, the company behind the app still exists. With a vast amount of user data now downloaded, the company could well find itself in the path of a massive data protection fine.

Michael Behr

Senior Staff Writer

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