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Trump campaign, Republicans boost Parler in lieu of Twitter censorship

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  • Dozens of Republican politicians, conservative pundits, and Trump campaign officials have recently shared posts and voiced support for a social platform called Parler.
  • Parler, similar to social networks like Gab and MeWe, has advertised itself as a haven for free speech and protector of user rights.
  • The migration to Parler comes as Trump and Republicans decry Twitter and Facebook for censorship since the platforms started flagging and restricting a few of the president’s policy-violating posts.
  • According to data Apptopia provided to Business Insider, the Parler app has around 1 million lifetime downloads, and had its biggest spike ever in daily installs on Wednesday — with 40,000 new downloads.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Top Republicans and Trump campaign officials are hyping a social network that prides itself on free speech as an alternative to big platforms that consider to be censoring the president and right-wing voices.

Conservative Twitter is being flooded with links to Parler, a platform calling itself a “non-biased free speech driven entity” that has seen more than 100,000 US downloads in the last week alone, according to app analytics data provided to Business Insider. Parler’s popularity surge comes as the Trump campaign reportedly weighs alternatives to Twitter and Facebook for reaching supporters just four months before the presidential election.

 

Figures like Eric Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz, Trump lawyer Rudy Guliani, and far-right personality Laura Loomer — who is banned from several major tech platforms — all have accounts on Parler. Dozens more Republican personalities are also encouraging their Twitter followings to abandon ship and follow them to a network they say is free from big tech’s speech policing. In a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, Parler cofounder John Matze said, “It is not Parler’s job to weigh in on political matters. We believe in free speech and fair elections. Period.”

In the past, Trump supporters and the far right alike have turned to platforms like MeWe, Gab, and 8kun (previously 8chan). Under the promise of free expression they say isn’t afforded to them on mainstream platforms, users have joined these communities to organize anti-quarantine protests banned on Facebook and to more freely spout fringe views on white supremacy, conspiracy theories, and vaccinations.

But it seems that Republicans’ plea to their supporters to join Parler may be working: Parler currently sits at No. 2 on App Store’s list of top News apps. According to data Sensor Tower has provided to Business Insider, Parler has seen a 246% increase in US downloads this week compared with a week prior. On Wednesday Parler saw the biggest number of daily installs it’s ever had: Users downloaded the app an estimated 40,000 times in 24 hours, Apptopia told Business Insider. 

It’s rare for a relatively small free-speech platform to get endorsements from some of the right’s most beloved pundits and government officials. Republicans have advertised Parler as a worthy rival to Twitter in tweets promoting their usernames. Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale posted last week about his Parler account, along with the words: “Hey @twitter, your days are numbered.”

 

Since it was launched in 2018, Parler has been downloaded an estimated 1 million times, according to Apptopia. The app has loomed in the background for years as a place for Trump supporters, but it gained a major uptick in users back in June 2019 after an influx of Saudi Arabians migrated over amid growing frustration with Twitter.

But compared with Twitter’s 50 million US users and Facebook’s 175 million US users, Parler’s self-reported 1 million users is relatively small. If the Trump campaign goes forward with shunning Big Tech and migrating its efforts to another platform, it could mean the team is forced to scramble to find another way to reach the millions of voters and supporters found on those major networks. His campaign has reportedly already spent nearly $20 million this year on Facebook ads, and Twitter has long acted Trump’s platform of choice — he’s tweeted more than 17,000 times since taking office in 2016.

Yet Trump’s growing frustration with major social networks is palpable. Tech companies in recent weeks have taken steps to more explicitly monitor Donald Trump’s content, which has angered Republicans and the president’s administration. Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat have all taken actions to restrict some of the president’s most problematic posts, which conservative officials and commentators have decried as censorship. Trump has even threatened to “shut down” Twitter if he could legally do so.

Trump issued an executive order targeting social media companies after Twitter fact-checked two of the president’s tweets in May about voting-by-mail. Since then, Twitter slapped a warning label on a Trump post for “glorifying violence” against police-brutality protesters, labeled a Trump tweet mocking CNN as “manipulated media” (and later removed it), and restricted another tweet for “abusive behavior.”

Facebook in the last week has removed a Trump campaign ad featuring a Nazi symbol and Trump’s doctored CNN video. Snapchat said earlier this month it would stop promoting Donald Trump’s social media account on Discover, but Trump’s account is still public on the platform.

Although a few high-profile actions taken on Trump posts have angered the administration, the overwhelming majority of his posts on Facebook and Twitter have remained untouched. Facebook has refused to take action on Trump’s post threatening violence against protesters —  the same post Twitter restricted — which caused a revolt among employees. Critics have taken aim at Facebook for not doing enough and slammed CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who has repeatedly defended the company’s decision not to censor posts in the name of free speech. 

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