‘Free speech’ app Parler is a hit among Trump supporters – experts say it won’t last

Parler, a Twitter-style social media platform, has gained popularity mostly among President Donald Trump’s supporters and right-wing conservatives after the 2020 presidential election, but experts told ABC News they believe it’s unlikely the platform will grow any further.

“They have this echo chamber and they can’t trigger anyone or target anyone because everyone believes what you believe,” said Fadi Quran, campaign director at Avaaz, a global civic organization that studies misinformation. “It gets boring to be sharing the same type of hate, and so they end up having to come back to the top five social media platforms.”

Parler was founded in 2018 by John Matze and Jared Thomson, two Nevada-based conservative programmers. The app receives financial backing by Rebekah Mercer, the daughter of Robert Mercer, a hedge fund manager and the co-founder of Cambridge Analytica, who revealed her involvement in a post on the app on Sunday.

“John and I started Parler to provide a neutral platform for free speech, as our founders intended, and also to create a social media environment that would protect data privacy,” Mercer said in the post. “The ever increasing tyranny and hubris of our tech overlords demands that someone lead the fight against data mining, and for the protection of free speech online. That someone is Parler, a beacon to all who value their liberty, free speech and personal privacy.”

Last week, the app gained over 3.5 million users, according to Jeffrey Wernick, the company’s chief operating officer. It is now at the top of Apple’s App Store list of free apps.

The app advertises itself as a platform for free speech, where users can post “without fear of being ‘deplatformed’ for your views.”

“Parler is a breath of fresh air for those weary and wary of the way they’ve been treated by our competitors,” said Wernick.

But Benedict Evans, a tech analyst, told ABC News he believes the new platform will not gain enough popularity to compete with Facebook and Twitter.

“Parler is a weak clone of Twitter, but you can go there to talk about one particular issue that’s now mostly blocked on Twitter,” said tech analyst Benedict Evans, referring to the fact that Twitter has been fact-checking or deleting posts and profiles promoting misinformation about things such as voter fraud in the presidential election.

“But how many people care about that one issue? And do they care enough to spend all their time there, and not on Twitter or Facebook where all the other news and discussions are happening?” Evans said.

Renée DiResta, a technical research manager at Stanford University who has been studying the way information spreads on the internet and social media platforms, noted that despite the creation of Parler accounts, Facebook and Twitter have not reported a significant dip in the usage of their platforms.

“It is not the first niche social platform to pop up, or to achieve a lot of downloads,” said DiResta. “In fact, for Parler in particular, some very similar articles speculating about a mass exodus were written in June 2020, as prominent conservatives announced they were creating accounts in response to Twitter and Facebook shadow banning conservatives, censoring the president and other similar rationales.”

Parler gained popularity after top social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter imposed stringent measures during and after the election to stop the spread of misinformation.

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