November 24, 2020

Parler, the social media platform founded in 2018 by software engineers John Matze and Jared Thomson, has been steadily gaining momentum in a landscape dominated by Silicon Valley giants such as Facebook and Twitter. 

The new social hub — which is built upon the notion of being open and transparent with its users and upholding free speech — experienced its most rapid rate of growth this month, amid the election. On November 9, according to market research firm Sensor Tower, Parler had 850,000 downloads, its most successful day to date. The app climbed to the top spot of Apple’s App Store downloads chart, overtaking TikTok, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat.

Many of the users flocking to Parler were motivated by the way establishment social media networks such as Twitter and Facebook glaringly injected themselves into our political dialogue and acted as purveyors of truth. Both Facebook and Twitter appended their own “fact check” disclaimers and warnings to random user posts, suggesting that the articles they shared or the opinions they echoed were misleading or false. 

On October 14, further fueling distrust of Silicon Valley, Twitter actively suppressed a breaking New York Post story on Hunter Biden. The story, reporting on a trove of leaked emails, revealed dealings and negotiations between the Democratic Presidential candidate’s son and various foreign companies. Twitter not only locked the New York Post’s account, but they also locked out users and prevented them from sharing the article — as well as a subsequent piece from the Post. 

Suspicions of Twitter’s political bias have also stemmed from its executive personnel’s proclivities. Earlier this year, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced that he had donated 10 million dollars to the Boston University’s Center for Antiracist Research, founded by radical activist and author Ibram X. Kendi. Following President Trump’s recent nomination of Amy Cony Barrett to the Supreme Court, Kendi had said, regarding Cony Barrett’s adopted Haitian children, “Some White colonizers “adopted” Black children. They “civilized” these “savage” children in the “superior” ways of White people, while using them as props in their lifelong pictures of denial, while cutting the biological parents of these children out of the picture of humanity.”

It was with this in mind that spates of social media users flocked to Parler, the platform loudly purporting to uphold neutrality in both its policies and practices. I spoke with Dan Bongino, a part-owner and investor in Parler, as well as the politically neutral alternative to YouTube, Rumbler. Bongino’s relationship with the social media app began with a sponsorship on his show. It was only later, roughly six months ago, after getting to know the service and the team behind it that Bongino decided to put his support behind the app’s mission and back them financially, upon which he also began acting as Parler’s strategic advisor. 

Amid its rising popularity and growth — especially amongst conservatives — Bongino explained that he and the team at Parler do not intend to market or portray the social media network as a political platform with any partisan bias. While maintaining that he is content with Parler courting conservative voices, Bongino insisted that Parler isn’t a political platform — nor does it intend to be. “Parler is not a political platform; it is a micro-blogging platform,” he asserted.

As Bongino emphasized, Parler is not exclusive to right-wing commentators. The network already boasts an eclectic array of users, including actors and musicians and entertainers, all enticed by the minimalist and trivial idea of free expression. Singer Joy Villa expressed her support for the app, stating “I love that Parler is transparent with who views my posts and that they promote and actually support free speech and free thought.”

With regards to Parler’s long-term plan for expanding their user base, and whether Bongino would like to see it politically diversify, Bongino recalled an anecdote. “When I was an instructor at the Secret Service Training Academy, Roger Ailes once came to speak at a graduation ceremony. During the Q/A period at the end of his speech, Aisles was asked about his business plan for Fox News; he responded by saying, ‘well, I found this untapped market called fifty-one percent of the population.’” 

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