Updated: Nov 13, 2021
Just because Facebook and Twitter have banned Donald Trump’s supporters does not mean that they are shut out totally from social media. Parler is an application that is the new platform on which they are now active. However, search engines and app stores have recently removed the app. Does that mean no social media platform exercises complete freedom of speech?
First of all, what is Parler and why is it being removed from the internet? According to Forbes, “Parler is a social networking site where there is no form of censorship and supports freedom of speech.” This means that numerous users, particularly conservative, right-wing, and Donald Trump supporters are able to share their views with the rest of the world. However, as most of the American media is left-leaning and with “the recently elected US President, Joe Biden, such platforms have been removed from search engines such as Google, and app stores.” But, even before the elections, with the mainstream media being mainly pro-democratic, how was the creation of such a platform possible, and what makes it so different from the other social media?
What makes Parler unique is its resemblance to Twitter. It is a less censored version of Twitter but rather than tweets, people post “Parleys,” and instead of retweets, you post “echoes.” Also, when you create an account you are then asked to follow political or news-related accounts which are usually pro-Trump. The whole promotion of free speech in this networking site is what is attracting most people to it: “In the past few weeks it was the second most popular app on the Apple App Store with around 1.5 million users, including famous conservative politicians such as Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, and Ted Cruz.” This is a huge success for the company as it was only founded in 2018 and was “rejected by Silicon Valley for its lack of privacy and security” according to the New York Times. Although Parler is not the only social platform that lacks censorship, it is an example of the possibilities in the future of freedom. Other examples would be Ello (known for having no ads in its network to avoid issues like other platforms selling user data for profit while invading their users’ privacy) and MeWe, another platform similar to Facebook which gives users the right to protect their data. So, let’s see what is so special about Parler by reviewing it.
Since the app has recently been removed from the app store, I used their website to get a sense of the free speech heavily advertised in their app descriptions. When looking at the website the first “Parleys” you notice are of users supporting Parler in their times of technical difficulties. Most users are seen arguing for free speech- regardless of the topic of the post- because they consider it to be a basic human right. We also see posts of users supporting Trump during his time of second impeachment trials. Another user writes that by using this social media platform, they have been labeled as extremists and they are proud as their voice can also be heard on the Internet. When looking at the Parler app description, I noticed that there is a mention of it being unsafe to use for children under the age of 17 and after looking at these “Parleys,” it is completely clear as to why that is the case. Although I completely agree with freedom of speech, the lack of censorship makes it difficult to control and also very dangerous. Is freedom of speech always justifiable especially when the statement could lead to extremism?
The app had recently been removed from the app stores and Google’s search engines. Although the website is now back, from time to time it is shut down for its lack of privacy. With Biden recently being elected as the President of the United States, could this be seen as a political strategy to suppress Trump supporters? Or to what extent can you argue for free speech until it moves into the realm of hate speech? By banning social media, the whole notion of freedom of speech seems to be a fallacy and also a contrast to the First Amendment of the American Constitution itself. With issues such as the Black Lives Matter movement and liberalization, we need more input from the people rather than just mainstream media. It is also definitely helpful to hear from the other side especially when their voices are not often heard. For example, antisemitism is claimed to have been within the Conservative Party since its origin in the Western parts of the world. But do we need to hear from “anti-semites and pro-Nazis?” Can we allow conservatives and antisemitism to talk in the same room and categorize it as the view of the political right?
Is the app where there is freedom of speech worth the trouble? It claims to be uncensored but it is not really freedom of speech as they have been banned on app stores. This gives an idea that freedom of speech is a fallacy. Furthermore, there are no boundaries meaning the conservative views and anti-semitic views are seen as the same. On the other hand, Parler is just an example of various other apps supporting freedom of speech that happened to be lucky to get so many users because of its similarity to Twitter.
It seems to be a trend and will probably fade once the whole Trump scandals are over and something new comes along the way. But Parler’s main supporters were in favor of Trump winning the election and despite his loss, social media along with its users have been protesting for his return. There are a lot of extreme right-wing views in America and they don’t look like they’re going to back down. What will happen to Parler and its supporters? Will Google and Apple app stores lift their ban or will the users find an alternative? Because as of now, they are nowhere near to backing down.