Talk seen as home to far-right – and now Kanye West

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Paris (AFP)- Seen as an online home for unwelcome extremist rhetoric on established social media, Parler has won far-right fans and budding celebrity buyer Kanye West.

The 45-year-old rapper, who now goes by the name Ye, said in a statement that he wanted to buy Parler to ensure those with conservative political views “have the right to speak freely”.

Speak was temporarily removed from Apple and Google app stores last year for failing to moderate calls for violence after the US Capitol was attacked by supporters of former US President Donald Trump.

‘Status symbol?’

Parler was started in the summer of 2018 by software engineer John Matze and Rebekah Mercer, a major Republican Party donor.

Little known until 2021, the platform gained attention after Trump was ousted from Twitter over fears his posts could trigger more violence in his effort to reverse his election defeat.

Ye’s proposed takeover of Parler comes as the rapper faces accusations of racism and anti-Semitism that have led to restrictions on his Twitter and Instagram accounts.

Kanye “Ye” West’s decision to buy Parler comes as he faces critical statements deemed racist or anti-Semitic. Jean-Baptiste Lacroix AFP/File

“By owning Speak, Kanye can ensure that he can say whatever he wants on the platform,” said Megan Brown and Joshua Tucker of New York University’s Center for Social Media and Politics. in a note.

“Of course, it may also be that owning a social media platform is now becoming a status symbol for the outspoken ultra-rich, especially those who have encountered problems with existing platforms. .”

Trump launched his own social media network earlier this year, while Tesla chief Elon Musk’s $44 billion deal to buy Twitter appears to be back on after his efforts to pull out.

Away from Facebook

Parler has been downloaded 8.5 million times since its launch, including 6.2 million times in the United States, according to figures from data.ai.

Only 58,000 Parler downloads were recorded in September across major app stores operated by Apple and Google, compared to some 72 million Facebook downloads during the same period.

Parler did not respond to a request for information on the platform’s finances and user count.

Trump does not have an official account on Parler.

Ye, who opened his Parler account last week, has a following of 1,800 followers there while he has more than 31 million Twitter followers and 18.2 million Instagram followers.

Prohibited a bit

Concerns over misinformation and rhetoric that could cause real-world harm prompted Apple and Google to pull Talk from their rival app stores after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

Amazon Web Services’ cloud computing platform gave a similar reasoning for deciding to stop hosting Parler on its servers, thereby disabling the social media website.

Fears that online posts could hurt people have prompted social network Talk to be removed from major app stores until it tightens content moderation systems.
Fears that online posts could hurt people have prompted social network Talk to be removed from major app stores until it tightens content moderation systems. ROBERTO SCHMIDTAFP

Parler has since been allowed to return to the App Store and Google Play store, reportedly after aligning its content moderation systems with the policies of rival tech companies.

“Google and Apple both require content moderation policies that remove illegal content, including incitement to violence, which is why they were banned in the first place,” Brown and Tucker said.

Limited audience

Speak is one of many social networks courting ultraconservatives opposed to the idea of ​​platforms dangerously filtering out inflammatory or misleading posts.

Parler’s rivals include Gettr, Gab, Rumble, and Trump’s own Truth Social, which had some technical issues after launching in February.

Trump’s social network has also found itself unwanted in Google’s store for Android-friendly content until it improves its content moderation systems.

According to a recent Pew Research Center study, only 6% of Americans regularly get information from one of these so-called “alternative” social media apps.

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