With Parler down for the time being, those banned from mainstream platforms, free speech advocates, the far-right and — as is often the case — those who are some combination of the three have been looking for a new safe space online. And Neo-Nazis are rolling out the red carpet for these disgruntled netizens by inviting them to their Telegram channels, in hopes of winning them over to their cause.
Nicknamed “conservative Twitter”, the alternative social media platform Parler was unceremoniously kicked from the Apple and Google app stores before being booted from Amazon’s Web Services earlier this week.
While the platform’s owners have reportedly found an alternative hosting solution, the site remains down for the foreseeable future.
Without a lightly-moderated, friendly space like Parler, many of those who have already been booted or are shunning mainstream platforms like Facebook and Twitter are now looking for an alternative space to congregate online.
One of these spaces that has emerged as an alternative is Telegram, the encrypted messaging service. On Wednesday the service sent out an alert claiming that they had added more than 25 million new user in the past three days.
As Twitter kicks off a bunch of QAnon and insurrectionists and Parler remains down, Telegram says they're going gangbusters.
In the past 3 day days, they claim they've added 25 million (!) new users. pic.twitter.com/CvbjxlUvlY
— CAMERONWILSON (@cameronwilson) January 12, 2021
It’s during this transition that Australian independent far right researcher Kaz Ross noticed members of various international extreme right wing communities are actively recruit trying to Parler refugees onto their own channels.
Multiple public chats have popped up targeting former Parler users, including one which appears to be run by an Australian user. These chats have grown to tens of thousands of members.
Gizmodo Australia has seen stickied posts in these chats that direct new users to join other explicitly fascist and Neo-Nazi chats, including some well known far right ecosystems.
Gizmodo Australia has also seen users in Neo-Nazi chats discuss trying to radicalise former Parler members.
“Redpill these kids”, one administrator said in an international Neo-Nazi chat, and included a link to one of the new chats for Parler refugees.
Gizmodo has chosen not to name these channels and users to avoid amplifying their message of hate.
As noted by investigative journalist Robert Evans, Telegram is not exclusively a messaging service for extremists, or even predominantly inhabited by them. But it has notoriously lax moderation, allowing extremism to flourish.
In the absence of significant efforts to stamp out hate and with suddenly adrift user group looking for a new home, Neo-Nazis appear to be capitalising on this opportunity.