Last week, as it became clear that Joe Biden won the presidential election, social media platforms suddenly had new vibes. While Twitter was like a Super Bowl parade, Facebook was more of a sad prayer circle. Then, by Saturday, it was clear the latter was experiencing a bit of a purge as some users posted that they were breaking-up and moving in with a new social media platform, Parler, where they could enjoy unconstrained speech.
Or tell lies without anyone calling them on it, if you prefer.
Parler touts itself as a “non-biased, free speech social media focused on protected user's right.” [sic all them]. According to Sensor Tower, it rose to the top of the charts, basically out of nowhere, late last week. Thursday it was the seventh-most downloaded app in Apple's App Store. By Friday it was sitting pretty at No. 1 and has held that position through the time of this writing (Wednesday). The app was downloaded 200K times in October. (For comparison, the app Among Us!, which was number one prior to Parler, was downloaded 26 million times last month.)
On Sunday afternoon, the site was so overwhelmed with downloads that it appeared to have technical trouble; people posted screenshots “Networking Timeout” message to Facebook, though they hate that place now since it edits some comments.
Facebook users now regularly post messages with their new Parler handle and invite others to make the leap with them. Naturally, some ask what the temperature is like before diving in. Responses (on my particular feed) often mentioned “free speech,” and the ability to post views that are “not censored” by the political leanings of the platform. One friend responded to the question after giving it a quick tour, "Mostly Trump supporters spewing disinformation. Glad they found somewhere to spew that hate."
To further unpack this new platform, and in my (second) most take-one-for-the-team moment, I opened an account to see "What’s the haps?!" on Parler. (Parler, FYI, is the French word for talk.)
Parler’s landing page has a photograph of a middle-aged white woman wearing blue overalls walking through a field, with the sun shining upon her. After I entered a bit of information, Parler was kind enough to suggest accounts for me to follow, based on no personal information other than my name and email address. Their first suggestion was, of course, Sen. Ted Cruz, who was followed by Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, Devin Nunes, Dinesh D’Souz, and that affable uncle from Duck Dynasty, Phil Robertson. All pretty conservative figures.
Which brings us to the whole tie-in with Cruz.
Last week the Senate Judiciary Committee, on which Cruz serves, subpoenaed the heads of three major social media companies: Twitter, Google and Facebook. Cruz was yelling-mad at Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey for blocking the New York Post’s unconfirmed story about emails found on a laptop that purportedly belonged to Hunter Biden, Joe Biden’s son.
At one point, the Texas senator scolded Dorsey rather passionately, “Who the hell elected you and put you in charge of what the media are allowed to report and what the American people are allowed to hear?”
We now know that was not a rhetorical question, but rather, a “No, seriously, who can I call? Do you have a guy for that?”
See, back on June 25, Cruz posted a video on Twitter touting Parler. The video received 1.2 million views, 8,400 retweets, and almost 30,000 likes. In the video, which again is on Twitter, Cruz besmirches Silicon Valley billionaires for their “unparalleled ability to shape what Americans see and hear and ultimately think. And they use that power to silence conservatives and promote their radical left-wing agenda.”
Cruz goes on to say that the harm from these sites threatens the integrity of our elections. (This was in June).
Cruz says he's proud to join Parler because the site gets what free speech is all about. He ends with “Let’s speak, let’s speak freely and let’s end the Silicon Valley censorship.”
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