The conservative-leaning, free speech-espousing social media app Parler rocketed to the top of the charts in the wake of Joe Biden cinching the presidential election. Over the weekend, as counts made it clear that Biden had won the critical state of Pennsylvania and thus the election, the Twitter-esque platform swelled its user base.
The Verge reports that the app was downloaded nearly a million times over the last week, with the bulk of those new downloads coming on Saturday and Sunday. While the timing supports the theory that the Biden win was a catalyst for the uptick in downloads that pushed it from the 1023rd most-downloaded app to the top slot, a wider crackdown on misinformation and conspiracy theories ahead of the election may have played a part. In the days before and after the Nov. 3 election, Twitter used a much heavier hand than usual when dealing with posts that might spread misinformation. They flagged or removed potentially incorrect posts for the fear that they might spread lies about the volatile and close election.
That hardline stance followed moves by Facebook to exert pressure on right-wing militias and conspiracy theorists that had flourished on their platform. Following high-profile acts of violence and conspiracy to commit major crimes, the platform cracked down on groups like the Boogaloo Bois and fully banned all pages related to QAnon — a messianic conspiracy cult based around the idea that Donald Trump is single-handedly fighting a “deep state” of pedophiles, celebrity clones, and nefarious global elites.
Parler was launched in 2018 in response to efforts at content moderation on Twitter and Facebook. Similar to the right-wing Discord analogue Gab, it marketed itself as a place where users wouldn’t suddenly find themselves “deplatformed” over questionable posts. Its current top post shows the sort of information on offer: a story on alleged statistical anomalies in the vote count from a news outlet owned by the religious sect Falun Gong. Though pornography, threats of violence and support for terrorism are not allowed, the app largely takes a hands-off approach to all other content.