Twitter; Paige Leskin/Business Insider
  • Parler, a social-media app touted by Republican politicians and right-wing pundits, made it to the top of the App Store in the days following the 2020 election.

  • The app, which brands itself as a “free speech” platform, has “no fact checkers,” CEO John Matze told Forbes in June.

  • When someone signs up, Parler recommends “promoted members” that include Sen. Ted Cruz, Sean Hannity, and Dinesh D’Souza.

  • Parler has a “discover news” section that recommends posts from far-right blogs like The Epoch Times, which has promoted the unfounded claim that coronavirus was created in a Chinese military lab.

  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Conservative pundits and influencers are getting their followers to join a new app called Parler.

Parler shot to No. 1 on Apple’s App Store on Sunday, the day after major media outlets projected Joe Biden would win the 2020 presidential race. Parler had been downloaded nearly 1 million times within five days of Election Day, November 3.

While Twitter labeled many of President Donald Trump’s tweets after the election as “misleading,” Parler brands itself as a “free speech” social-media platform, and that emphasis means posts that spread untrue claims do not get labeled as misinformation. CEO John Matze told Forbes in June there are “no fact checkers” on the app.

Misinformation on the app may have already had real-world effects. “Stop the Steal,” a group that falsely claims Democrats “stole” the presidential election, may have mobilized protesters on Parler. Business Insider’s Paige Leskin found that the hashtag #StoptheSteal had more than 15,000 “parleys,” or mentions, on the platform over the weekend. Stop the Steal protesters gathered around vote-counting centers in Georgia, Nevada, and Michigan to demand that election workers stop tallying ballots.

Here’s a breakdown of what Parler is, how the app functions, and who controls it.

Parler did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.

What is Parler?

Parler describes itself as “non-biased, free speech social media focused on protecting user’s rights.” Users can discover news related to politics, sports, and entertainment. They can also comment on and upvote posts, called “parleys.”

Its privacy policy says Parler makes “no guarantees as to the security or privacy of your information.”

Parler’s privacy policy says the company collects:

  • All information shared on the site, including photos, videos, and comments.

  • IP addresses and other location information.

  • A user’s searches, viewed posts, and the number of times they visited.

The policy says that user information is shared with vendors, service providers, and analytics partners.

Users who violate the company’s community guidelines can be removed from the app. The guidelines say posts that promote crime or unlawful acts, spam, copyright violations, content from terrorist organizations, or posts that otherwise interfere with Parler’s “welcoming, nonpartisan Public Square” can be removed.

Who owns Parler?

Matze and Jared Thomson, Parler’s chief technology officer, created the app in 2018.

Matze graduated from the University of Denver in 2014 and worked as a software engineer for Amazon Web Services before creating the app, his LinkedIn profile says.

Thomson wrote on LinkedIn that he graduated from the University of Denver in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree.

Dan Bongino, a pro-Trump Fox News contributor who has perpetuated misinformation about COVID-19, announced in June that he would take an ownership stake in Parler.

Matze told Forbes that he received funding for the app through angel investments, but he did not disclose the amount.

Who’s on Parler?

Though Parler’s tagline on the App Store is “unbiased social media,” Matze told Forbes that liberals accounted for a “very minute share of the population” and that the platform’s users were mainly Republican and right-wing influencers and politicians.

When a user signs up for the app, Parler suggests following “promoted members” including the prominent conservative pundits Sean Hannity and Dinesh D’Souza as well as politicians like Sen. Ted Cruz and Jo Jorgensen, the 2020 Libertarian presidential nominee.

Parler automatically recommends conservative influencers and politicians for new users to follow. Allana Akhtar/Business Insider

Several right-wing activists who have been barred from other social-media platforms have “promoted member” accounts on Parler. Laura Loomer, a self-proclaimed “proud Islamophobe” whom Facebook barred for violating its policies against “dangerous individuals,” joined in 2018 and has 659,000 followers on Parler. Milo Yiannopoulos, who has been barred from Twitter and Australia for inciting violence and harassment, is a promoted member with 176,000 followers.

Because of Parler’s lax rules on identifying false information, promoted members have spread baseless theories on the app. Trump’s campaign account — a promoted member with 1.8 million followers — said that “mail-in ballots have led to total and complete CHAOS.” In reality, despite some expected delays in counting votes, a record number of Americans were able to vote in 2020.

The conservative talk-show host Mark Levin, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and the pro-Trump vloggers Diamond and Silk have also spread baseless claims of election fraud to their combined millions of followers. There is no evidence of election fraud, and experts and news outlets have debunked claims of voter fraud.

What’s on the Parler app?

Parler, like Twitter, allows users to post short messages, links, and photos to their followers.

Parler has a “discover news” section that recommends headlines from far-right blogs and news aggregators. These sites include Geller Report, founded by the anti-Muslim blogger Pamela Geller; The Epoch Times, which has promoted the unfounded claim that the coronavirus was created in a Chinese military lab; and The Federalist, which got suspended from Twitter for publishing an article instructing readers to deliberately infect young people with COVID-19.

The site has also recommended content from ESPN, TechCrunch, Ladders, and Page Six.

Parler and the far-right’s grip on the internet

Parler’s rise represents one way that conservative pundits and right-wing agitators have built communities online — and used them to spread false theories.

Ben Shapiro, who has spread misinformation about climate science and Islam, has one of the most popular podcasts in the country. QAnon, an outlandish conspiracy theory purporting that Trump is secretly battling a group of Satan-worshipping, child-trafficking Democrats plotting to oust him, has spread through Twitter, Facebook, and Parler, Business Insider reported. Right-wing pundits used Twitter and YouTube to spread the con
spiracy theory that Bill Gates was responsible for COVID-19.

Some Democrats have said more must be done to match conservatives’ competency online. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has said that part of her Democratic colleagues’ challenge in securing down-ballot races this year was their failure to spend money on Facebook ads.

“Our party isn’t even online, not in a real way that exhibits competence,” Ocasio-Cortez told The New York Times.

Read the original article on Business Insider