‘Free Speech’ Social Network Parler Tops App Store Downloads After Trump Loses Election

‘Free Speech’ Social Network Parler Tops App Store Downloads After Trump Loses Election
Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP, Getty Images

Parler, the Twitter alternative for conservatives where users can say anything they want without fear of censorship (except for an arbitrary list of terms conservatives don’t like), is taking off in the wake of Donald Trump’s defeat against Democrat Joe Biden in the 2020 elections.

Parler is currently listed ranked as the #1 most downloaded free app on iOS and Android, per analytics firm SensorTower. The app bills itself as a sort of alternate Facebook or Twitter where right-wingers can frolic without fear that that liberal tech billionaires and their mod cronies will ban them or delete their posts — a Trump-endorsed conspiracy theory that has become central to GOP dogma.  According to TechCrunch, Parler sat as the 1,023th most downloaded app on the App Store a week ago to #7 on Saturday and #1 on Sunday. On Android, Parler shot from #51 on Saturday to #5 on Sunday and #1 on Monday.

Parlor was originally pronounced “Parlay” (meaning to speak in French), but its CEO John Matze changed it to the more straightforward pronunciation “Parlour” (as in the type of room) after realising his users were saying it that way anyways.

Tech firms are serving as one of the many bogeymen the president and Republican allies have trotted out shift the blame of their electoral losses to a vague array of liberal gatekeepers (rather than the GOP’s record of governance.) Conservative media figures including talk show host Mark Levin, Newt Gingrich, and numerous others have urged their followers on other social media sites to join Parler — something that might have a greater impact if they were leaving those sites themselves. Instead, the join-Parler crowd is generally positing the transition as a preemptive response to some unspecified purge in the future and not actually deleting their existing accounts.

It’s not surprising that Parler is experiencing a wave of signups in the wake of the elections: It’s been one of the primary beneficiaries of the Republican obsession with supposed social media censorship — in no small part due to the endorsement of pundit Dan Bongino, who has a massive following on Facebook and Twitter, and heavily promoted Parler using his accounts on those other sites. In the lead-up to Nov. 3 and after, Twitter put warning labels on many of Trump’s tweets claiming a conspiracy to “steal” the election; whether or not it was effective, it also made the president and his supporters look ridiculous, perhaps encouraging them to lean more on alternative communications channels.

Parler has also eked out a position as a less explicitly seedy destination than its competitors (such as Gab, which is primarily used by white supremacists and neo-Nazis) for QAnon loyalists and other far-right groups fleeing increased scrutiny on Facebook, Twitter, and other mainstream sites. The Trump campaign, which is refusing to concede the election, has also used Parler to raise funds for a task force to dispute its outcome. At least 50 to 60 per cent of the funding is being channeled towards other uses, like paying down the campaign’s debt.

While Republicans might not actually be expanding their audience via Parler, they’re certainly embracing the opportunity to funnel existing supporters into their new conservative safe space. Over the course of the last week, Parler does seem to have experienced a surge in traffic — recent posts by the Team Trump account have racked up view counts from between one to two and a half million, up from the neighbourhood of 200,000 to 350,000 a week prior.