Over the past week, many prominent conservatives have announced that they are joining Parler, a social media app seen as an alternative to Twitter and Facebook. After Twitter decided to flag one of President Donald Trump’s tweets, people on the right directed their ire towards the company for what they consider a censorious action.
After years of dealing with discriminatory treatment from social media companies like Twitter and Facebook, the conservative movement is attempting to foster a mass exodus to Parler, which has declared that it will not censor its users based on political affiliation. The number of people moving to the newer platform is unclear, as is the impact on Twitter. Nevertheless, this raises an interesting question: Would a social media migration be beneficial to public discourse?
High-Profile Conservatives Embrace Parler
Nikki Haley, Elise Stefanik, Ted Cruz, and Jim Jordan are some of the high-profile conservatives who have recently announced that they have signed up with Parler. Other politicians have been members of the service since its launch in 2018.
On June 24, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) tweeted, “It’s about time y’all joined me on @parler_app. What’s taking the rest of you so long?!”
Eric Trump and his wife, Lara, recently joined the community last month. Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale has been on the service since the beginning as well.
Parler functions similarly to Twitter, allowing its users to share comments, videos, news stories, and images with their followers. Another reason the app has gained in popularity was that The Wall Street Journal published a piece indicating that the Trump administration is considering alternatives to Twitter and Facebook to prevent future content from being blocked or otherwise censored.
Only a few days after the story went live, Parler became the top-ranked app in the news category in the Apple store. The platform gained half a million users in a single week. “We’re a community town square, an open town square, with no censorship,” said Parler founder John Matze in an interview. “If you can say it on the street of New York, you can say it on Parler.”
However, should this trend continue, will it have positive consequences for political discourse?
Does Parler Offer Freedom or an Echo Chamber?
One of the issues that some have pointed out with the focus on Parler is that it is primarily conservatives who are moving to the platform. It seems that the app might end up becoming yet another echo chamber in a world full of echo chambers. Evidently, the company also recognizes the potential problem and is using creative ways to avoid it.
Matze recently announced that he is offering a $20,000 “progressive bounty” for a left-leaning pundit with 50,000 followers on Twitter or Facebook to sign up with the service. According to CNBC, “The company will judge the best one, based on engagement with the community, and pay that person the reward. Matze said there’s been such little response that he increased the original proposed payment from $10,000 to $20,000.”
Matze told CNBC that the company “was never intended to be a pro-Trump thing.”
However, it appears that the app was destined to become pro-Trump simply because left-leaning social media users typically do not experience the type of censorship and discrimination as those on the right. So, what benefit does this new service provide when it comes to political discourse?
It would give conservatives a place where they can interact with like-minded people, and that type of discourse is undoubtedly needed. Moreover, if millions of users stop using Twitter and Facebook, the hope is that it would cause these companies enough pain to rethink their policies.
However, it is also critical to point out that if more people flee these platforms, there will be far fewer conservative voices to challenge progressive ideas on these sites. In effect, both camps will have retreated into their own echo chambers, which drastically decreases the chances of converting moderates and centrists to the right.
Read more from Jeff Charles.