Parler, a social networking app that markets itself as “non-biased, free speech social media focused on protecting user’s rights,” has experienced a spike in popularity in the past two weeks, with roughly one million people downloading the app within a few days of the Nov. 3 election.
Users who were upset that large social networks like Facebook and Twitter had taken minor steps to reduce election disinformation propelled Parler to the top of the app download charts on both Google Play and the iOS App Store. As a result, as of November 18, the app is prominently displayed in both app stores, resulting in increased exposure and downloads.
Parents should know that due to Parler’s dangerous combination of an extremist user base and almost non-existent moderation of content, hate speech, incitements to violence and disinformation about the election results are pervasive on the platform.
ParentsTogether urges all parents of children under age 18 to immediately check their kids’ phones and tablets to ensure that their children have not installed Parler. If your child has installed Parler, we strongly recommend that you delete their account and the app.
The fact that Parler does not require users to share their age or birth date during the app sign-up process makes it even more important for parents to proactively check their children’s devices.
Below, we have briefly outlined some of the factors that make Parler unsuitable and unsafe for minors.
Incitements to violence and calls for a civil war
On Parler, there are frequent posts explicitly calling for targeted political violence and civil war in response to Donald Trump’s defeat in the 2020 presidential election.
As of November 18, hashtags like #civilwar, #civilwar2 and #civilwarifnecessary had been used more than 8,000 times on Parler, representing just a small fraction of the posts calling for political violence.
Examples of such posts include:
- A post from user @WayneDupreeShow – an account with 485,000 followers – with the text, “I would rather give up what I have and fight a civil war than allow these liberal pieces of crap to win by stealing the election. Evil has gotten out of hand and it is time to take out the garbage.”
- A post from user @NMProudBoys with the hashtags #civilwar and #democratshateamerica and the text, “why are we not just eliminating these psychos?”
- A post from user @Mountmainman78629 with the text, “To me, the easiest fix is every conservative kill 2 liberals. I’m sure most everyone knows one or 2. If we all killed 2 in a single day there would be so many dead but no one alive would give a damn.”
- A post from user @DonHo with the text, “Go to the range and practice. We’re going to need #patriots who can hit a mark under pressure. #CivilWar is coming and it won’t be fought online.
- Countless posts calling for Pres. Barack Obama to be killed.
Hate speech, antisemitism and Islamophobia
From anti-Black racism and anti-Semitism to Islamophobia and other forms of bigotry, Parler is rife with hate speech.
Examples of such posts include:
- A post from user @MarijaMandic with the text, “let’s get that stupid n***** b*tch out of the VPs office.”
- A post from user @TheLastStronghold, which has Nazi insignia as its avatar, with the hashtags #whitesupremacy, #jewsarenotwhite and #hitlerwasright, and the text, “talk with others like you.”
- A post from user @Bitchute calling the Holocaust a “profitable hoax.”
- A post from user @WillyWilliams with the hashtag #muslimsareinvaders and an image with photos of Barack Obama, Valerie Jarrett, and others, and the text, “what in the HELL are all these MUSLIMS doing in our WHITE HOUSE?
- A post from user @NeoPineal with an image of a white woman and the text, “I’m this pretty because both of my parents are white.”
Parler has quickly become a hotbed of disinformation on the results of the 2020 presidential election and COVID-19, among other topics.
A few examples include:
- The #StopTheSteal hashtag, which has become a rallying cry among conspiracy theorists, had been used more than 200,000 times on Parler as of November 18.
- The false claim that Wisconsin had more votes than the number of people registered to vote, which has been amplified by Rush Limbaugh, originated on Parler.
- The #covid19hoax, #covidhoax and #covidhoax2020 hashtags had been used more than 30,000 times on Parler as of November 18, including countless posts like this one from user @petrafiednews promoting unproven medical treatments.
Violent extremist user base
Parler’s prominent users include a who’s who of white supremacists, violent extremists and conspiracy theorists, many of whom have been banned from mainstream social media platforms for their bigotry, lies and incitements to violence. Such prominent Parler users include Proud Boys, Qanon, Oathkeepers, Three Percenters, Infowars, David Duke, Laura Loomer and VDARE.
As The Bulwark reported in June – well before Parler’s surge in popularity – ”most of the available user names containing the N-word have already been taken.”
Weak and Unenforced Moderation Policies
While other social media platforms ostensibly try to crack down on dangerous disinformation, Parler – which was created as a safe space for propagators of disinformation – actively encourages it. This is reflected in the app’s community guidelines (PDF), which specify that “in no case will Parler decide what content will be removed or filtered, or whose account will be removed, on the basis of the opinion expressed within the content at issue.”
The community guidelines prohibit the app from being used as a “tool for crime, civil torts, or other unlawful acts,” but they do not explicitly address violence, bigotry, racism, hate speech, or disinformation and an overwhelming amount of content on the site that encourages this behavior is allowed to flourish.
In a separate document entitled “elaboration on guidelines,” (PDF) the company specifies that it prohibits “defamation, sexualization of minors, nudity and pornography, indecency involving violence, gore and other graphic content, threats of violence, advocacy of imminent lawless action, threats to dox, bribery or criminal Solicitation.” However, as noted in the examples above, explicitly violent and hateful content remains largely unmoderated.
This is likely due to the fact that Parler “relies upon its community members to report violations” to a “Parler community jury” (PDF) made up of volunteer community members, rather than paid employees specifically tasked with enforcing the guidelines.
In addition to the problematic content outlined above, we know that dangerous content like child sexual abuse material (CSAM), child trafficking solicitations and terrorist recruitment thrives on unmoderated and loosely moderated platforms like Parler. ParentsTogether is concerned that, absent major changes to Parler’s community guidelines, moderation and enforcement, Parler will become a safe haven for such content and the individuals who seek to distribute it.