The capitol riots on January 6th, 2021 left four insurgents and one law enforcement officer dead. The alternative social media platform Parler immediately became the focus of the investigation of this violent attack against democratically elected leaders of the 117th United States Congress. Was a social media platform used to coordinate the insurgents? Did Parler facilitate online radicalization against democratic leaders by allowing extremist content? An independent data analyst used scraped geolocation data from Parler users to create an interactive map to identify insurgents, track their movements and establish links to content posted by Parler users as they attempt to disrupt the certification of the electoral college vote and beyond. Another group of researchers wrote a captivating research paper about Parler’s account and content mechanisms. The researchers drew upon a large set of data. Analyzing more than 120 million pieces of content from more than 2 million Parler users they demonstrate the inner workings of account level content and content level moderation. It is an invaluable read to better understand Parler’s operations and how the platform managed to grow throughout the second half of the Trump presidency culminating in the capitol riots. But, perhaps more importantly, their contribution offers insights into Parler’s role of creating a platform for extremist content, its detrimental influence on American politics and the preventable translation into real world harm.
Parler is an alternative social network promoting itself as a service that allows its users to “Speak freely and express yourself openly, without fear of being deplatformed for your views.” Because of this promise, the platform become popular among users who were suspended on mainstream social networks for violating their terms of service, as well as those fearing censorship. In particular, the service was endorsed by several conservative public figures, encouraging people to migrate there from traditional social networks. After the events of January 6 2021, Parler has been progressively deplatformed, with its app being removed from popular mobile stores and the entire website being taken down by their hosting provider. In this paper, we provide the first data-driven characterization of Parler. We collected 120M posts from 2.1M users posted between 2018 and 2020 as well as metadata from 12M user profiles. We find that the platform has witnessed large influxes of new users after being endorsed by popular figures, as well as a reaction to the 2020 US Presidential Election. We also find that discussion on the platform is dominated by conservative topics, President Trump, as well as conspiracy theories like QAnon.
Make sure to read the full paper titled An Early Look at the Parler Online Social Network by Max Aliapoulios, Emmi Bevensee, Jeremy Blackburn, Emiliano De Cristofaro, Gianluca Stringhini, and Savvas Zannettou at https://arxiv.org/abs/2101.03820