Downloads of Parler, a Twitter-alternative microblog popular with conservatives, have surged in the wake of the US election and likely defeat of current US President Donald Trump.
The social media platform became the most downloaded app in the United States with 636,000 downloads on 8th November, with an additional 344,000 downloads between 3rd November and 7th of November, according to data from SensorTower.
This performance saw it overtake popular rivals including TikTok and YouTube in the download charts.
Launched in 2018, Parler styles itself as a free-speech alternative to Twitter, which has joined other social media groups in clamping down on misinformation.
As part of its mission statement, Parler takes a hands-off approach to content moderation and banning, allowing users to largely post what they want.
“In no case will Parler decide what will content [sic] be removed or filtered, or whose account will be removed, on the basis of the opinion expressed within the content at issue,” the company’s community guidelines state.
However, the platform still bans illegal content, spam and hides pornographic content, largely in line with other social media platforms.
The large influx of new users, increasing its daily active userbase four-fold, according to co-founder John Matze, has caused technical difficulties for the social media platform, including slower performance.
While many prominent conservative figures, including Senator Ted Cruz, are on Parler, as of yet President Trump has yet to adopt the platform.
Trump has long used Twitter as his platform of choice. Despite repeated breaches of Twitter’s rules, he has largely escaped censorship due to his status as President and Twitter ruling his posts met the criteria of ‘public-interest exceptions’.
However, with Trump due to leave the White House on January 20, Twitter has signalled that the company’s special relationship with the President will come to an end, meaning he will be subject to the platform’s rules, potentially earning a ban or suspension.
The sharing of right-wing opinions on social media has proven contentious with different political groups. The CEOs of Twitter, Facebook and Google were summoned before the US Senate over their content moderation practices.
While ostensibly focusing on Section 230, a law that protects social media companies as neutral platforms that are not legally responsible for content published on their sites, Republicans used the hearing to accuse the CEOs of stifling conservative voices.
Meanwhile, left-leaning voices have claimed that social media intrinsically favours right-wing content.
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With a currently estimated userbase of around 3.6 million, Parler is still a small slice of Twitter’s 330 million global user base, with just under 70 million in the US. Also, many users hold accounts on both platforms, to ensure as broad a reach as possible.
However, the rapid increase in Parler’s user uptake highlights growing concerns across the political spectrum about the role of large social media and tech groups, such as Facebook and Google, have in society.
Issues such as censorship, data protection and misinformation have seen the creation of smaller social platforms that have ethical or political concerns built into their designs and business models.
While their niche focuses, such as free speech or environmental issues, mean they are unlikely to challenge the dominance of the major tech groups, Parler’s recent success highlights growing discontent with the mainstream social media and the ability of smaller platforms to attract an audience.