The rapper formerly known as Kanye West is offering to buy the right-wing social network Parler shortly after he was banned from Twitter and Instagram for anti-Semitic posts.
Acquiring Parler would give West, legally known as Ye, control of a social media platform and a new outlet for his unguarded opinions. The question is, who will listen?
Even among the new breed of largely right-wing, far-right, and libertarian social apps that claim to support free speech by having looser rules and moderation, Parler’s user base is tiny — and the competition increases only for the relatively small band of mostly older users. people who want to discuss politics online, there’s no clear roadmap for developing it beyond a niche platform chasing the crumbs left behind by mainstream social media.
If Tesla CEO Elon Musk goes through with his plan to buy Twitter, things could get even more complicated for Parle. Indeed, Musk has already made it clear that he wants to relax Twitter’s rules and content moderation efforts, including reinstating former President Donald Trump’s account. If libertarian and far-right users who left Twitter — either because they felt it restricted their political views or because they were kicked out — returned, sites like Parler, Gab, and Trump’s Truth Social could end by losing users.
Parliament Technologies, owner of Parler, and West said Monday the acquisition is expected to close in the fourth quarter, but pricing and other details were not disclosed. Parliament Technologies said the agreement includes the use of private cloud services through Parliament’s private cloud and data center infrastructure.
Parler restructured its company last month to form Parliament Technologies, which it says aims to become “the world’s premier free speech technology infrastructure and platform.” This means that instead of running a single platform like Parler, the company wants to provide services to other niche sites that are often deemed too extreme for mainstream tech companies to support. Parliament spokesman said the deal with West was not yet in place when the company was restructured and the two transactions are separate.
Ye was blocked from posting on Twitter and Instagram a week ago due to anti-Semitic posts that social media said violated their policies. In a post on Twitter, Ye said he would soon go “death con 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE,” according to internet records, making an apparent reference to the scale of US defense readiness known as DEFCON. .
Ye also suggested slavery was a choice and called the COVID-19 vaccine a “mark of the beast”. Earlier this month he was criticized for wearing a ‘White Lives Matter’ t-shirt in his collection at Paris Fashion Week.
“In a world where conservative views are considered controversial, we must ensure that we have the right to express ourselves freely,” Ye said in a prepared statement.
Parler has struggled against competition from other pro-conservative platforms like Truth Social, which are also tiny compared to traditional social media sites. Parler averaged 725,000 monthly active users in the United States during the first half of this year, according to Data.ai, which tracks mobile app usage. That’s down from 5.2 million in the first half of 2021. Overall, including people outside the United States, Parler still didn’t hit the 1 million mark in the first half of this year. .
Truth Social, meanwhile, had 2.4 million monthly users during the same period, despite launching in February and only on Apple devices, according to Data.ai. The market research firm said another right-wing platform, Gettr, launched in July 2021, leads both Parler and Truth Social with around 3.8 million monthly active users.
None of them come close to Twitter, which reported that it had a daily average of around 237.8 million active users in its most recent quarter. Many right-wing platforms were born out of opposition to content moderation restrictions on mainstream services such as Twitter and Facebook, but they failed to attract users in large numbers.
Part of that reason may be that most people don’t want to discuss politics online. According to the Pew Research Center, a third of tweets sent in the United States are political in nature, but these are mostly sent to a small subset of mostly older people. While Americans ages 50 and older make up 24% of America’s adult population on Twitter, they produce nearly 80% of all political tweets, according to Pew. This is the audience that Ye’s Parler should woo if the rapper is serious about growing Parler’s userbase.
Talk was launched in August 2018, but it only started to gain momentum in 2020. It was taken offline in January 2021 due to its links to the deadly insurgency in the United States Capitol at the start of the month. A month after the attack, Parler announced a relaunch. It returned to Google Play last month.
“This agreement will change the world and change the way the world views freedom of expression,” Parliament Technologies CEO George Farmer said in a prepared statement.