It may have launched two years ago, but Parler — a platform that bills itself as a “free speech social network” — has never been more popular.
That’s because many of its new users are Twitter and Facebook castaways who’ve come to seek refuge in Parler’s promise of neutrality — especially after recent crackdowns on false posts from President Donald Trump claiming voter fraud.
“They have this echo chamber and they can’t trigger anyone or target anyone because everyone believes what you believe,” Fadi Quran, campaign director at Avaaz, a global civic organization studying misinformation, told ABC News.
Parler’s user base more than doubled to 10 million people in under a week, the Wall Street Journal reported, and famous faces on the app include Sen. Ted Cruz, Congressman Devin Nunes and Fox News host Sean Hannity.
It also currently sits at No. 11 on Apple’s App Store list of free apps, though it previously topped the chart, ABC News reported.
But according to a release from the Anti-Defamation League, a large number of extremists have also hopped on the Parler train to spew hate speech alongside millions of mainstream users.
“Proud Boys, QAnon adherents, anti-government extremists and white supremacists openly promote their ideologies on the site, while Holocaust denial, antisemitism, racism and other forms of bigotry are also easy to find,” the ADL said.
John Matze, CEO of the Nevada-based company, told the Wall Street Journal that QAnon followers “creep [him] out,” but that Parler’s focus remains on free speech, and banning them would go against that.
On Parler’s website, it encourages users to speak freely and express their opinions “without fear of being ‘deplatformed’ for your views,” and says that the idea was born from “changes in Big Tech policy influenced by various special-interest groups.”
Though Twitter is not mentioned by name, the popular social media platform recently began tagging tweets from President Trump with warning labels to prevent the spread of misinformation, and at times forced users to click through a warning in order to view certain tweets.
Rebekah Mercer — daughter of Cambridge Analytica co-founder Robert Mercer — recently revealed herself to be one of Parler’s financial backers.
“The ever increasing tyranny and hubris of our tech overlords demands that someone lead the fight against data mining, and for the protection of free speech online,” she wrote in a post on the platform. “That someone is Parler, a beacon to all who value their liberty, free speech and personal privacy.”
Parler users are able to choose whether they want to apply filters that hide content such as hate speech, graphic violence or pornography, according to the WSJ.
“Community jurors” — currently volunteers — enforce the removal of things like spam, threats of violence or illegal activity.
“The whole company was never intended to be a pro-Trump thing. A lot of the audience is pro-Trump. I don’t care. I’m not judging them either way,” Matze told CNBC in June. “We’re a community town square, an open town square, with no censorship.”
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