JOPLIN, Mo. – Parler is a social media network that has been called the “conservative Twitter.” It was founded back in 2018, but its grown exponentially, collecting over four million users with endorsements from political figures like Ted Cruz.
“I like the concept of there being a little more freedom in the discussions, or opinions, or the sharing of free thinking ideas, so it caught my eye the other day and I just thought, ‘You know what, I’m gonna look into this,’ so I did,” explained Dianna Wescott.
Parler identifies itself as a “free speech and unbiased alternative” to mainstream social networks offering a platform with seemingly little moderation.
“Parler says that they do not dictate what a users content or stream would be, but yet they give the user tools to either mute or block other users, influencers, or sometimes even terms that people don’t want to see…You are getting an echo of what you are already thinking or feeling, so that can be very positive, but that can also be very negative in limiting what the site is actually used for. The definition of parley is to hold a conference with an opposing side in order to discuss terms and ideas, but then they use terms like echo as responses,” observed Shanna Slavings, a communications professor at Missouri Southern State University who used uses and gratification theory to help explain why Parler is growing in popularity.
“What uses and gratification theory says in the world of academia is that an audience will actively select and use the media platforms according to their specific needs. So, in other words, if a user is feeling like their needs are not being met by Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, then they will likely seek out a new platform in order to meet those user needs.”
Replies on Parler are literally called echoes, something that can be reaffirming, but also dangerous. A police chief in Marshall, Arkansas recently resigned after he posted threats of violence towards Democrats on the site. Slavings says its important to remember that there are always ramifications for what we say online.
“Section 230 is really so important for people to understand because while social media companies get to create their own policies and procedures for review of what is and isn’t appropriate content that there is still definitely those legal actions that apply to all of them,” said Slavings.
Wescott says she doesn’t plan on deleting Facebook anytime soon, but she would rather fact check things herself.
“I think we lose perspective on a lot of things if you’re only getting information from one source. If you’re only getting your ideas from one thing, I don’t believe you’re being as well rounded as you can be. I think that’s extremely naïve to think that this one line of thought is the only way. I do believe in being open minded even in my own conservative views. Just because I view things that way doesn’t mean I’m not willing to listen, or hear, or ponder other thoughts,” concluded Wescott.
Many users on Parler are made up of individuals who have been banned on other social networking sites like Twitter or Facebook.