In the days following Joe Biden’s victory over President Donald Trump in the election, the conservative social networking app Parler has vaulted to the top of the download charts in both Apple and Google’s app stores. The app, which was founded in 2018 as a “non-biased free speech” alternative to Twitter, has pitched itself as a haven for conservatives who are frustrated with content policies on Twitter and other social networks.
With many GOP’s leaders refusing to recognize Biden’s win and an unfounded disinformation campaign to undermine the election’s results by claiming voter fraud continuing to circulate on right-wing media, Parler was perfectly positioned to take advantage. According to data from Sensor Tower, Parler was downloaded about 636,000 times across the App Store and Google Play store on November 8 alone—the most single-day downloads in the app’s history. Between November 3 and November 8, the app added nearly 1 million downloads, bringing its total installs to 3.6 million. The huge influx has also led to a host of glitches and slow load-times—CEO John Matze also urged patience from users as the app’s engineers play catch-up.
Parler first experienced a surge of interest in summer 2020 after Twitter labeled President Trump’s tweets as misleading for the first time, gaining one million users in about a week. But its speech policy is not quite as free-wheeling as the app’s founders have claimed; it has clarified that it does not allow content that supports unlawful activities like terrorism and child pornography, nor does it allow obscenity. Some users have reported being banned from the platform; Parler’s terms of service allow the site to eject any user for bad behavior.
Parler’s highest profile users include the president’s son Eric Trump, Senator Ted Cruz, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who on November 5 urged his Twitter followers to follow him on Parler (though all of the above remain very active on Twitter). Conservative media figures have also taken to Twitter to encourage their followers to make the jump.
Parler is exploding. I went from 500,000 followers there a couple of weeks ago to 1.2 million currently. This is the hip new platform where the air is free and you can speak your mind. Follow me there!
— Dinesh D'Souza (@DineshDSouza) November 9, 2020
Many of Parler users have turned to the app because they claim that the big social networks, namely Twitter, are biased against conservatives and conservative views, a stance for which there is little evidence. Twitter and Facebook did get more aggressive in enforcing content policies to ensure the integrity of the U.S. election, including fact-checking any claims that falsely claimed victory before the election was called or charged voter fraud without any evidence.
However, as my colleague Mark Sullivan reported earlier this year, Parler remains little more than an echo chamber where the right can spread conspiracy theories and conservative memes. Without folks with differing views to debate and troll, Parler could be hard-pressed to maintain its current momentum.