An Investigation of Parler and Free Speech

Parler and Free Speech
Parler homepage. Source: Parler.com

What Is Parler, Anyway?

I woke up this morning to news that more of my Facebook friends decamped to Parler. There were mutterings of suppression of free speech, censorship, and liberal favoritism.  Graham Allen, in a public Facebook post, said “I’ve made the switch to Parler to tell the truth without censorship!” Brigitte Gabriel, in a similar post, said “Posting on Facebook is like trying to expose Communism while living in China.” But what is Parler, anyway?

When I looked it up, Wikipedia told me that it had “a significant user base of Trump supporters, conservatives, and Saudi nationalists. Posts on the website often contain far-right content, antisemitism, and conspiracy theories.” In other words, depending on who you asked, Parler was either the ultimate expression of free speech or a stewing pot for far-right ideology. I decided to investigate for myself.

Welcome to Parler

    I selected the people I wanted to follow – Parler offered me a choice of mostly right-wing figures – and settled back to read. The first thing I saw was a post featuring a clip from MSNBC, on an account with 618000 followers. “Politburo spokeswoman warns Trump to accept coup,” it read. One commenter chimed in: “4 years of FBI and CIA RUSSIAN COLLUSION and fake impeacent [sic] was not a peaceful transfer.” Another read “DJT will not be responding to communist threats in the way they are hoping.”

Parler and Free Speech

    One major reason people are headed to Parler is because of its touted “free speech” policy. But what is it, actually? I checked their community guidelines.”Our goal is to provide all community members with a welcoming, nonpartisan Public Square. While the First Amendment does not apply to private companies such as Parler, our mission is to create a social platform in the spirit of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

Reading further, “…even though the law may not require us to flag or remove reported content, or to ban a member, we may nonetheless do so, in order to prevent our services from being used by someone in the commission of a crime or civil tort, especially when these interfere with our mission of providing a welcoming, nonpartisan Public Square…” The examples it offered were fairly broad. 

Echo Chamber?

    I’ve heard Parler derided as a “right-wing echo chamber”. Right-wingers shoot back that’s what Facebook and Twitter are. At first glance, it certainly seems that opinions on Parler are relatively uniform. Will they remain that way? Only time will tell. 

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