Parler Is Down, But Google And Apple’s Ban Might Help
The app is crumbling as every social media giant firmly locks the gate long after the horse has bolted
I heard a rumor that Donald Trump was moving from Twitter to Parler after his account was banned. I wanted to see for myself, as I had already created an account on Parler for periodically watching the downfall of a nation.
What does CEO John Matze think of what’s unfolded this week?
Well, you know I don’t necessarily monitor a lot of this stuff. I participate and watch Parler just as anybody else does. If people are breaking the law, violating our terms of service, or doing anything illegal, we would definitely get involved. But if people are just trying to assemble or they’re trying to put together an event — which is what a lot of people tried to do at this event today — there’s nothing particularly wrong about that.
I recommend listening to the full interview I’m quoting from Kara Swisher’s Sway podcast, or at least reading the transcript.
I opened the app, and my feed would not load at all.
I did a speed test just to make sure, and yes, my network connection was working fine.
Later I tried again, and I was able to load my feed. This is a feed that was created as a result of following all the accounts that Parler suggested when I joined. You can find more about my experience signing up in What I Found Out When I Joined Parler. The feed seemed to have loaded, but it seemed to be struggling. I didn’t seem to be getting posts from all of the accounts I follow, so I would get 10 posts in a row that were all from one person. Suddenly posts would animate in at random intervals, shuffling the deck of my feed in real-time.
I was able to load this important announcement from Sean Hannity, which I will be very interested in tuning in for.
Well if the feed is working, I guess I can search for Trump now. Nope, it seems that despite the entire Trump family is on there now, no people could be found matching my search. This was an error that shouldn’t really be displayed because it’s just a lack of response from the server.
Eventually, it was replaced by the previous network error.
After a while, I was able to get search results, one of which seemed to be a person without a profile picture that had managed to bag the username @trump. Just like on Twitter, it would have to be @realdonaldtrump all over again. That account has 41,000 followers, and no posts as far as I can tell. It is indeed very hard to tell because the app is still broken as I write this.
I continued to poke around, but it seems my feed hasn’t been able to refresh with any posts newer than the last 2 hours. Although the search tab managed to give me a load of hashtags, including for some reason #parler, #parlerusa, #parleruk, and #parlerksa, selecting any of these hashtags don’t seem to load any of the posts.
Parler’s servers are about to get a welcome respite from all this traffic. When they inevitably can’t abide by the request that Google and Apple have made, they will be pulled from the App Store and the Google Play Store. Many Trump supporters think that Apple and Google were able to automatically crush the Parler servers just by denying their latest update.
But those companies are merely about to refuse to ‘sell’ the free app in their stores. Any store has the right to decide what products are sold in their stores, and they don’t even need to have an explanation for those decisions. As we speak, Trump supporters are working out ways to sideload the app on these platforms. They know just as well as the people working at Parler that there is no way to prevent violence from being planned on the platform.
If moderation at scale can be achieved by the Parler team, I for one will be very surprised.
It seems that most of the people who really want to use Parler have already downloaded it, and giving 24 hours notice may have just given those people enough time to get it onto every device they want it on. It is not inconceivable that Apple and Google could take steps to actually remove the app from devices where it is installed. Although this might be without precedent on a mobile platform, Apple did reach into every Mac to fix a security flaw left by Zoom in 2019.
It’s not clear if this is possible on mobile platforms, but we’ll see what the future holds.
In the meantime, the team at Parler will probably have less work on their hands if they can continue to restore full functionality without the app being downloaded at an exponential rate.
How does CEO John Matze explain this?
Well, we’re in the middle of an upgrade. So it’s not an ideal time. We’re trying to optimize a few things. And so then you get an influx of millions of people, 3 million people by two o’clock Eastern today.
Well, that sounds like really bad timing.
He said this during the siege of the US Capitol, which was organized on his platform. You’d think it would be all hands on deck at a social media company literally struggling under the load of a revolution they helped organize, but he seemed perfectly relaxed. He came across as someone who really doesn’t pay much attention to what happens on his platform, including not seeming to know any statistics about how many posts are removed for any reason.
John Matze and all of the staff at Parler are about to find out that there are actually limits to the violent rhetoric a platform can support.