Twitter permanently booted Laura Loomer in 2018 for violating the site’s rules against hateful conduct. But that didn’t stop the right-wing provocateur from finding an alternative platform.
That year, Loomer joined a new social media app called Parler, where she now has more than 574,000 followers. Loomer, who’s also barred from Facebook and its photo service Instagram, describes herself in all capital letters as the “most banned woman in the world” on her Parler profile.
Twitter permanently suspended Loomer after she tweeted that Democratic Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar, one of the first Muslim women to serve in Congress, was “anti-Jewish” and “pro-Sharia.” Twitter said that Loomer, who had more than 260,000 followers on the site, was permanently banned for violating its rules against hateful conduct — and not because of her political beliefs, as she had claimed. Facebook suspended Loomer from its platforms in 2019 for running afoul of its policy against “dangerous individuals.”
Loomer is just one of hundreds of thousands of people who’ve recently sought refuge with Parler, which calls itself a nonbiased, free speech-driven platform. Republicans such as Sen. Ted Cruz from Texas have been promoting the app since Twitter started applying labels to tweets by President Donald Trump that falsely claimed fraud with mail-in ballots or that the company said glorified violence. Trump’s campaign has been considering “building audiences” on other social media platforms, including Parler, The Wall Street Journal reported last week.
Two days after the Journal article was published, Parler surpassed Twitter and Reddit to become the top-ranked iPhone app in the news category, according to CNBC, which cited app analytics company App Annie. Parler CEO John Matze told CNBC that the company grew its users from 1 million to 1.5 million in roughly a week. As of Thursday afternoon, Parler was ranked second behind Twitter in Apple’s top charts for news.
Parler didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Here’s what you need to know about the social media app.
What is Parler?
Launched in 2018, Parler is a social media app created by University of Denver graduates Matze and Jared Thomson. They came up with Parler because they were “exhausted with a lack of transparency in big tech, ideological suppression and privacy abuse,” according to Parler’s website.
The private company is based in Henderson, Nevada, and has between 11 and 50 employees, according to LinkedIn. Parler means “to talk” in French and is meant to be pronounced as PAR-lay. But as more people started saying the app’s name like the English word “parlor,” that pronunciation took over.
The social network has a similar feel to Twitter. You follow accounts, and content appears in a chronological News Feed. Users can post up to 1,000 characters, which is more than Twitter’s 280-character limit, and can upload photos, GIFs and memes.
You can also comment on a post and search for hashtags. There’s a feature called “echo,” with a megaphone icon, that functions like the Twitter retweet button, and there’s an upvote icon for a feature that resembles “liking” a post on other social media platforms. As with other social networks, you have to be at least 13 years old to sign up for an account.
Who uses Parler?
Matze, 27, told Fox Business that Parler is used by mostly conservatives but that there have also been “left-leaning individuals” tied to the Black Lives Matter movement who’ve joined the app to “argue with conservatives.” He also told CNBC that he doesn’t want the app to be an echo chamber for conservatives, noting that he doesn’t like either the Democratic or Republican party.
“The whole company was never intended to be a pro-Trump thing,” Matze told CNBC. “A lot of the audience is pro-Trump. I don’t care. I’m not judging them either way.”
If you join, Parler asks for your email and phone number, but it doesn’t ask for your political party. It also doesn’t brand itself as a social network for conservatives.
But the network boasts a who’s who of conservative voices. Former US Rep. Ron Paul from Texas; Trump’s campaign; Loomer; and Republican US Rep. Devin Nunes from California are on the app. So are conservative commentator Candace Owens and far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who was banned from both Facebook and Twitter. Right-wing news sites such as Breitbart News, The Epoch Times and The Daily Caller also have Parler accounts.
When you join the app, Parler recommends several conservative users to follow, but there aren’t any liberal ones — likely because they haven’t joined the app or don’t have a large following.
There are several fake accounts for lawmakers, including one for Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. At least 32 Republican lawmakers have joined Parler, many setting up accounts in recent weeks, Politico found.
Parler’s monthly downloads increased by a factor of six from May to June, to over 900,000, according to App Annie.
Why are more conservatives joining the app?
that social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook are suppressing their speech. These companies have repeatedly denied doing so, saying they have rules against hate speech and inciting violence that apply to all users.
This year the allegations from conservatives have only gotten louder, after Twitter, for the first time, placed fact-checking labels on Trump tweets for including misinformation (about mail-in ballots). Twitter also veiled two of Trump’s tweets, saying one of them broke its rules against glorifying violence and the other violated rules that prohibit threatening an identifiable group with harm. The notices obscure the tweets, but they also say it may be in the public’s interest to be able to read them, and users can click a View button to go ahead and see the president’s remarks. Trump posted similar content on Facebook, but the world’s largest social network determined his remarks didn’t violate its rules. Facebook doesn’t send posts or ads from politicians to fact-checkers.
There have also been reports that Trump’s campaign is looking to attract more followers to the Parler app, drumming up more publicity for it. And politicians such as Nunes have been urging other users to join. Last year, Nunes sued Twitter and three Twitter users, including one satirically posing as Nunes’ cow, over defamation allegations, but a judge dismissed the social network from the lawsuit.
How is Parler different from Twitter and Facebook?
Parler has fewer rules than Twitter and Facebook over what it allows on its network. Users can report a post for violating Parler’s policies, but the company doesn’t have third-party fact-checkers and doesn’t label misinformation.
Some of the content that’s barred on Parler, though, is allowed on Twitter. For example, Parler’s rules prohibit pornography, but Twitter lets users share “consensually produced adult content” if they mark the media as “sensitive.” Facebook doesn’t allow users to post images of sexual activity.
Parler’s user base of 1.5 million people is also a fraction of the number of people on Facebook and Twitter. Facebook has more than 2.6 billion monthly active users. Twitter, which stopped reporting the number of monthly users, has 166 million users who log in to the social network daily and are able to see ads. Some people view tweets, including ones embedded in news articles, without logging in to the site.
Parler also has different-colored verification badges. A gold badge, for example, is for public figures with a large following, and a red badge indicates that the account is a real person and not a bot. Parler has rules against spam, which include “repetitive comments and posts which are irrelevant to the conversation.”
Can users say anything they want on Parler?
No. Parler, like other social networks, has a list of rules that users agree to when they join the site. Parler doesn’t allow terrorists, spam, unsolicited ads, pornography, threats to harm, , blackmail and content that glorifies violence against animals.
The site doesn’t have rules against hate speech, but it does have policies against obscene content, meaning content that’s sexual in nature, offensive and lacks “serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.”
The company’s user agreement also says that the site may remove any content or bar a user’s access “at any time and for any reason or not reason” but that the site “endeavors to allow all free speech that is lawful and does not infringe the legal rights of others.”
Users who joined Parler to mess with fans of Trump took to Twitter to complain they’d been booted from the platform.
On Monday, Matze said in a post on Parler that you can’t “spam” others in comments with “unrelated comments” that include profanity or threats to kill someone.
“If ever in doubt, ask yourself if you would say in the streets of New York or national television,” he wrote.
Users can also mute or block other accounts, like on Twitter and Facebook.
Will Trump abandon Twitter and Facebook for Parler?
It seems highly unlikely. Twitter and Facebook have a much bigger reach than Parler. Trump’s campaign, for example, has a Parler account, @TeamTrump, with roughly 967,000 followers. The campaign has 1.8 million followers on Twitter. As of this week, though, the campaign does have more followers on Parler than on Facebook. The campaign’s Facebook page has more than 961,305 followers.
Trump’s personal account, however, has an even bigger audience on Twitter, with 82.6 million followers. On Facebook, he has 30 million followers.
In May, while signing an executive order that would curtail legal protections social media companies get for content posted by users, the president was asked if he’d consider deleting his Twitter account.
Trump said he uses social media to push back against what he described as unfair media coverage and noted that the amount of followers he has on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter is more than the reach that media companies have.
“I put something out and the next day or the next hour or the next minute everybody’s reading about it,” he said.
Trump added that he thinks he’d be hurting Twitter “very badly” if he didn’t use the platform anymore and that he’d shut down the company if he found a legal way to do so.
“We have other sites we could use, I guess,” Trump said.