WORLD Conservative site Parler, banned by tech giants, is headed offline

WORLD

Conservative site Parler, banned by tech giants, is headed offline

AFP

07:34, January 11, 2021

Tech giants Amazon, Apple and Google have all cut ties with Parler, the social media platform popular with some conservatives, potentially leaving it without an internet home as of midnight Sunday even as its usership has recently been soaring.

Parler, which launched in 2018 and operates much like Twitter, has delcared freedom of expression as its raison d'etre. (Photo: AP)

The three mega-corporations have accused the platform of continuing to post messages inciting violence even after the deadly assault Wednesday on the US Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump.

If Parler is unable to find a new hosting partner by 08H00 GMT Monday, when Amazon cuts off its services, the site will be unable to function.

A day after Twitter on Friday permanently suspended the president's main account, Parler remained the application most downloaded in the US from Apple's app store.

The social network, launched in 2018, operates much like Twitter, with profiles people can follow and "parleys" instead of tweets. Freedom of expression is its declared raison d'etre.

Based in Henderson, Nevada, Parler was founded by John Matze, a young computer engineer, and Rebekah Mercer, a prominent Republican donor.

In its early days, the platform attracted a crowd of ultra-conservative or even extreme-right users.

It now attracts many more traditional Republican voices.

Fox News star host Sean Hannity has 7.6 million followers on Parler; his colleague Tucker Carlson has 4.4 million.

There are also elected officials, including Republicans Devin Nunes, a California congressman, and South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem.

Its recent growth was supercharged in recent days as new users, furious over Twitter's ban on Trump, flocked to the app.

Trump's accounts have also been suspended by other big social media outlets including Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitch in the wake of the violence in the Capitol.

That has sent even more of the president's ardent supporters to conservative platforms including both Parler and Gab.

Their success drew the attention of Google, which decided late Friday to drop Parler from its app store because of posts the internet giant said were inciting violence, as well as what it deemed an overly casual approach to moderating content.

A day later, Apple followed its example.

Those moves complicated things for Parler but did not completely block it: users who already had the app could continue accessing it, while new users could use work-arounds to install it or access it on the internet.

- 'Ditched' -

Amazon's decision, on the other hand, directly threatens Parler's online presence -- and its CEO Matze is not optimistic.

"Every vendor, from text-message services to email providers to our lawyers all ditched us, too, on the same day," he said on Fox. "They're trying to falsely claim that we were somehow responsible for the events on the sixth" of January, when the Capitol was invaded.

"It's devastating."

Matze said it would be difficult to get back online quickly because potential service providers were saying they did not want to collaborate in defiance of Google or Apple.

Parler was given 24 hours to find an alternative host but, Matze said, "Where are you gonna find 300-to-500 servers in a 24-hour window?... It's an impossible feat."

With the tech giants making their opposition clear, conservative sites like Parler are probably going to have to find ways to adjust.

The DLive video streaming service, used by several protesters during the invasion of the Capitol, thus closed seven of its channels and pulled more than 100 videos off the site.

Other services might have to follow the example of another site popular on the far right, Gab.

That platform drew fierce criticism in 2018 when investigators found that the shooter who killed 11 people in an attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue had earlier posted anti-Semitic messages on the site.

Gab, already on the outs with Apple and Google, installed its own servers so as not to be dependent on outside providers.

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