In his first media interviews since ending his presidency, Donald Trump has rejected the idea that he would wish for a return to Twitter, saying that, with the heightened speech control of the platform, “I understand it’s become very boring, and millions of people are leaving … because it’s not the same.” So, does the ex-president have any plans to rejoin social media at all? “We’re negotiating with a number of people,” he said. He even alluded that he may back a brand-new site. It was recently revealed that Trump associates were considering a deal with Parler before the platform was taken offline. Now that it has returned to the web, is Parler still a candidate – or is it tainted goods?
After a month in internet exile, Parler has returned to the web. Existing accounts have been reinstated, while new users will be able to create accounts next week, according to the site. Connectivity has reportedly been spotty with technical issues, and users will have to start with a fresh slate, as it appears no content had been backed up by the company, leading to all previous “parleys” being wiped.
The site made it online two weeks after the firing of former CEO John Matze and the hiring of a temporary replacement, Mark Meckler. An attorney and activist, Meckler co-founded the Tea Party Patriots and serves as the current president of Citizens for Self-Governance, a group that promotes the idea of small government.
Meckler in a statement accused Big Tech of a “desire to silence tens of millions of Americans” and added, “Parler is being run by an experienced team and is here to stay. We will thrive as the premier social media platform dedicated to free speech, privacy and civil dialogue.”
Speaking to Neil Cavuto of Fox News, Meckler revealed the company was in negotiations to get back into the Apple app store but was “not interested” in a return to the Google Play Store, claiming the tech titan is “not for free speech.”
Independent Platform or Still Relying on Others?
According to Parler, the reboot has been “built on sustainable, independent technology and not reliant on so-called ‘Big Tech’ for its operations.”
When Parler managed to get a homepage online after languishing in the wilderness for a week, it was speculated that the site would have to rely on Russian assistance. Also in January, it transferred its domain name to Washington-based web hosting firm Epik, known for hosting other controversial forums, including Gab and 8chan.
Now, it is using SkySilk cloud hosting among other providers. It was noted that the web host reserves the right to reject customers disseminating, among other content, “hateful material or those which create customer service or abuse issues for us.”
SkySilk CEO Kevin Matossian released a statement to allay concerns about Parler’s controversial reputation, saying: “Skysilk does not advocate nor condone hate, rather, it advocates the right to private judgment and rejects the role of being the judge, jury, and executioner.”
Just two days later, Matossian was showing signs of the pressure he is facing:
“I have been painted as a racist, bigot, anti-Semite … Anyone who knows me knows this is far from reality … My message is not dissimilar to yours. That’s the irony. I am in no way condoning any message of hate. Never! Period. I am simply convinced that silencing a voice you disagree with is a recipe for disaster. History has proven this again and again.”
Will SkySilk stick it out, or succumb to demands that it pull its support from a platform getting back on its feet and send Parler back to square one?
New Parler’s First Ban
The direction of content moderation has been a major bone of contention among the site’s management. Finally, Parler has revealed that it will use both human and artificial intelligence to review materials posted – “content that threatens or incites violence” will be removed. It looks as if the site will assign “violation points” to users that break the rule. Decisions can be appealed by the user.
Additionally, a “trolling filter” will hide “personal attacks based on immutable or otherwise irrelevant characteristics such as race, sex, sexual orientation, or religion.” If a user wishes to view such content, they can bypass the block, while those who want to avoid it can ramp up the filter.
It didn’t take long for questions to arise about the site’s new rules on speech. Not called a provocateur for nothing, right-wing personality Milo Yiannopoulos went looking for trouble and, according to National File, decided to test the system. This test involved making violent comments about gays and immigrants, apparently in jest.
Yiannopoulos was soon blocked, with the platform making the account private and changing the password.
This is not the first occasion where Parler has banned users, however it appears to be the first and only incident since its relaunch – less than a week ago.
In response to the ban, Yiannopoulos announced a livestream on another platform where participants would compete to get banned from Parler the quickest. He later told the Gateway Pundit that he “just had a nice hour-long chat with a senior Parler executive. I said I’d consider coming back if I were immune from all punishments and they built me a custom ‘Messy Wine Mom’ badge. They’re thinking about it.”
Yiannopoulos’ account was indeed reinstated, and he appears to have continued using it to push the boundaries of polite society. The episode surely signals that Parler is still finding its footing when it comes to the slippery slope of free speech versus civilized discourse – or shall never the twain meet?
Read more from Laura Valkovic.