What I Found Out When I Joined Parler

The ultimate echo chamber isn’t going to help anyone

Rob Sturgeon
Nov 22, 2020 · 13 min read

This is a story about a business, but it is also about the stories we tell one another.

When our preferred stories can exist without being challenged, we can control the stories we tell ourselves.

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Image by Susanne Jutzeler, suju-foto from Pixabay

There were fewer attempts to hack election infrastructure this year than there were in 2016 or the following mid-terms.

Perhaps the highly secure systems that protect voter data are a more difficult target than social media, which allows anyone to create an account with minimal effort. Passwords and other security measures do not have to be broken for a foreign adversary to gain access to these networks. The information people see on a daily basis can just be replaced with false information.

It is very obvious that Facebook and Twitter made a choice during the US presidential election in 2020.

After having gained reputations as places where misinformation thrives, they chose to label false claims about the election. Although the president has broken many of the Twitter rules over the years, he was not immune from this action, as many of his tweets around the election were hidden due to his tendency to completely fabricate claims of fraud.

There are benefits to this approach. The president’s tweets are often hidden until the user chooses to view them, and they are viewing them with the knowledge that they may be reading something false. But it’s also easy to see that this is a conspiracy theorist’s dream scenario. The big tech giants literally don’t want you to read something, because they want you to believe it’s false.

Add to that the widespread belief that these companies are practically a monolith of Democrats, and you have the recipe for an ‘attack on free speech’ narrative. Now that social media companies are trying to stop the spread of verifiably false information, those that want to believe false information want to go elsewhere.

The day after Pennsylvania was called for Joe Biden, solidifying his victory in the election, social media app Parler shot to the top of the App Store.

Let’s find out what all the fuss is about.

Parler on the App Store

The subtitle of Parler on its App Store listing is ‘Unbiased Social Media.’ The description begins by saying “Parler is a non-biased, free speech social media focused on protecting user’s rights.” The rest of the description is pretty standard, although I find it funny that an app that was downloaded more than any other has the typo “Be apart of the viral experience”. This sentence could be interpreted as meaning that you are away from the viral experience elsewhere, but then it would be “be apart from the viral experience.”

It seems that there should instead be a space between the ‘a’ and the ‘part.’

Creating an account

During the account creation process, I was given 40 suggestions of accounts to follow.

In order to get an overview of the kind of content that would be seen by any user, I followed all of the suggestions. I could have skipped this step, but then I wouldn’t be following anyone. I wanted to assess what content would be served to a new user, so following no one wouldn’t be very useful.

If you’re interested, here are some of the people it suggests.

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In other words, the suggestions are:

  • Republican senator
  • Fox News personality
  • Fox News personality
  • Republican senator
  • Republican author
  • Republican duck hunter
  • Fox News personality
  • Fox News personality

And on and on it goes.

So now I’ve got my 40 sources, but what am I about to learn?

Let’s remember that this app made a big deal of calling itself unbiased when I viewed it on the App Store. Are Republicans and Fox News personalities unbiased? Judging by how frequently they complain about Democrats, I’m guessing they aren’t usually in favour of seeing a problem from differing perspectives.

The App Store description also emphasised debate, but this sure looks like the most homogenous onboarding process I’ve ever seen.

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I will show the first 10 posts from the 40 profiles Parler suggested, making me a textbook biased leftist

Here are the first 10 posts that I was shown after creating my account. I have not picked them to support a biased argument of mine that Parler is full of misinformation or political bias. I merely copied the links without refreshing the feed, so I know that anyone who chose to follow the same people would have seen the same content, assuming they created their account at around the same time. It’s ironic that I would be accused of bias for showing this unedited news feed, considering the fact that I’m accusing Parler of bias by showing how all of these posts have essentially the same bias.

Judge rules California Gov. Newsom violated Constitution with executive order on election

John Solomon is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Just The News, and the link he’s posting is from that very website. Solomon wrote some popular conspiracy theories surrounding Joe Biden and his son Hunter in Ukraine, working with Lev Parnas on many of these stories. It is now common knowledge that Parnas was part of a scheme by Rudy Guiliani to try to find evidence that the Democrats colluded with a foreign power to rig the 2016 election.

Guiliani was a vocal supporter of Solomon’s columns, as were Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity on Fox News. This fact alone should tell you exactly how biased a source we are reading, and I might go so far as to say that his website may not contain Just The News. Trump was so insistent that Ukrainian authorities investigate the Biden claims that he withheld military aid, leading to the president’s impeachment.

By the time Trump was asking for this investigation, the claims had already been widely discredited.

So what is John Solomon sharing on Parler?

California Governor Gavin Newsom had issued an executive order which stated that “all Californians who are registered (and otherwise eligible) to vote in the November 3, 2020 General Election shall receive vote-by-mail ballots.” That’s not all it said, and you can view the full executive order to see what else was included. The court ruling specifies that most of the stipulations of the executive order were superseded by legislation, with the following exceptions:

Specifically, despite the subsequent legislation, the Executive order remained in effect requiring all county election officials to use the Secretary of State’s barcode tracking system for all mail ballots and altered the statutorily required outreach in Voter’s Choice Act counties to provide noticed, public meetings allowing for public comment on voting access for California voters with disabilities or limited English proficiency.

The court case was about whether the governor is allowed to “exercise legislative powers by unilaterally amending, altering or changing existing statutory law or making new statutory law.” You might have noticed that the headline stated that Gavin Newsom violated Constitution with executive order on election.

Guess what? He didn’t.

The court states that you would have to render the California Emergency Services Act (CESA) unconstitutional if you were to interpret it as granting the governor the power to amend statutes. The court specifically ruled that CESA itself is not unconstitutional, and that seems to be the only mention of the constitution in the ruling.

The Just The News article juxtaposes a quote of the ruling that the governor cannot amend statutes with the fact that the executive order requested that registered voters receive vote-by-mail ballots. This leads the reader to believe that there is some connection between these facts, but there is no such connection to be made. Voting by mail is mentioned in the aspects of the order not superseded by legislation, but it merely pertains to the barcodes used for tracking the ballots.

Think about the way that Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, is being wrongly accused of violating the constitution to mandate that vote-by-mail ballots be sent to every registered voter.

Think about how it helps the agenda that Democrats will do anything to secure vote-by-mail ballots, which the president falsely claimed were fraudulent months before the election.

Think about how biased and false that makes this story.

Stop The Biden Steal! Sign Your Petition Now

This one is a lot less subtle than the first. Marjorie Taylor Greene insists that she doesn’t support QAnon conspiracy theories.

I was just one of those people, just like millions of other Americans, that just started looking at other information. And so, yeah, there was a time there for a while that I had read about Q, posted about it, talked about it, which is some of these videos you’ve seen come out. But once I started finding misinformation, I decided that I would choose another path.

Well, it’s just as well that Greene now fights against misinformation wherever she finds it!

Unfortunately, she tweeted that California bill SB145 “protects child molesters from being forced to register as sex offenders”.

According to PolitiFact, the law “would not apply in cases where a one party does not believe the sexual contact was voluntary.”

Sex with a minor is still illegal in all cases, and the legislation only addresses an inconsistency in existing laws.

The legislation would eliminate automatic sex offender registration for young adults who are convicted of having voluntary anal or oral sex with a minor and are within 10 years of age of the victim. Instead, a judge would make that decision, just as existing law allows judges to decide whether to place offenders in cases involving vaginal intercourse on the registry. The bill would not, in any fashion, make it legal for any adult to have any type of sex with a minor.

It’s worth noting that the claim Greene has made has been widely spread by QAnon. It seems that her departure from explicitly quoting Q as a source for her conspiracy theories has not led to her distancing herself from those theories.

If you’re interested, Greene is giving away her famous AR-15, stating that “if Joe Biden steals this election, he’ll try to ban it.”

This was tweeted on Sunday 15th November, after every state had been called and Biden had won 306 electoral college votes. But still, the fear that Biden will at some point steal the election that he already won by a wide margin isn’t enough. “Get yourself a gun before it’s too late!” she adds.

The link is to a donation page, which enters you into a prize draw to win the gun. The gun is valued at $1,890, so I guess anyone donating more than that would be overpaying if they won. But she adds that you can win the gun regardless of how much you donate, which reveals the extremely subtle game being played. It’s not about the gun at all, it’s a way to solicit political donations by claiming that sweeping gun control legislation is just around the corner.

So now that we know that Greene can’t be trusted to tell the truth, what is she talking about on Parler?

Greene wants to Stop The Steal. She is inviting you to sign a petition, but it is not clear who the petition is for. Usually, a petition is appealing to a higher authority, as is the case with White House petitions. I think we all know that this is not a real petition but in fact a way for Greene to get your name, email address, and ZIP code (all required).

In addition, she asks for at least $10 in order to fund a “media blitz in targeted states and to help mobilize supporters.”

I’m not sure what good will come of mobilizing people after a fair election has already concluded.

President Trump has the votes. But the Democrats, Big Tech, and the Fake News Media are trying to STEAL this election. You and I cannot let that happen! This is the biggest VOTER FRAUD operation in American history. Sign your petition to STOP THE STEAL. Save America. Stop Socialism. STOP THE STEAL.

Can you spot the misinformation here?

Here’s a clue, it’s basically all misinformation.

Call Of Duty: Black Ops Cold War Gets DLC That Benefits Military Veterans

Not a lot of misinformation here, as this is a link to a GameSpot article by GamingNews.

After a cursory glance, it doesn’t seem that GamingNews has a particular political slant that biases its content, but I could be wrong.

This post comes from Pedro Oliveira, an ‘aspiring economist’ whatever that means.

His profile picture, as you might notice in the thumbnail above, is a shirt that says ‘count legal votes’ on it. I’m fascinated by the obsession that conspiracy theorists have with the idea of counting legal votes. What do they think the process of counting votes is? A vote is only a vote when it is legally cast.

They obviously think that votes for Trump are legal votes, while votes for Biden are, at least in some part, illegal votes.

The post is a video of Robert Barro, a professor of Economics at Harvard University, talking about monetarism.

When I looked up Robert Barro on Wikipedia, I found this:

Finally, Barro has been an outspoken opponent of stimulus spending, calling Obama’s stimulus bill “garbage” and “the worst bill since the 1930s.”

I’m not sure that Trump would agree, as he spent his entire presidency taking credit for the economic recovery that was started by that bill.

Pelosi’s House Majority Just Shrunk to Levels So Low, She’s Gonna Need A Lot of Cocktails to Get Through

Here’s a website that immediately asks you to sign up for a premium account so that you can avoid the many ads. Without the ads, the article would be pretty short, as it’s pretty much just reporting what we already know about Democrats losing seats in the House of Representatives. The end of the article states that “You can make a huge impact in the war against fake news by pledging as little as $5 per month”.

Mentioning your opposition to fake news doesn’t really make sense when you claim that there was a red wave in the presidential election but the Democrats have “been able to bury that one… for now.”

An interesting new take on forcing people to sign up to a mailing list comes in the form of a poll.

The poll asks for your rating of the GOP senate choosing from Bums, Poor, Fair or Good.

You cannot vote in the poll without providing your email address.

I wonder if they even record the result of the poll.

1 out of 7 Trump voters are on Parler! Find out why by listening to my podcast on Rumble!

Devin Nunes, Trump’s most vocal defender during the impeachment, has had a podcast on Rumble since July. I hadn’t heard of Rumble before, but there is a Battle Leaderboard. Almost every video in the Battle Leaderboard is about the recent so-called Million Maga March.

Here are some interesting titles:

  • Tony Katz Tells FOX Host Networks Don’t Decide Elections; 73 Million Americans Want Voters To Be Heard
  • We Will Win MAGA
  • MARCH FOR TRUMP! “Nothing Can Stop What Is Coming. Nothing”
  • You won’t see this on Fox News
  • The Right Side Of History — Four More Years

Our civil liberties are in danger. It’s time for SCOTUS to act in defence

Here’s another video podcast on Rumble, this time from writer Dinesh D’Souza.

According to Wikipedia:

In 2014, D’Souza pleaded guilty in federal court to one felony charge of using a “straw donor” to make an illegal campaign contribution to a 2012 United States Senate campaign. He was sentenced to eight months in a halfway house near his home in San Diego, five years’ probation, and a $30,000 fine. In 2018, D’Souza was issued a pardon by President Donald Trump.

D’Souza has released multiple political documentary films, most recently the 2020 release Trump Card. This film supposedly exposes “the corruption and gangsterization of socialism in the Democratic Party as embodied by the two remaining presidential candidates, Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden.”

Wikipedia says his films promote conspiracy theories and falsehoods, a claim that cites 6 sources.

Gary A Wales says good night from Scotland

I’m not exactly sure why this actor is on Parler, as I can’t find evidence that he’s outspoken about anything that would be banned on other platforms.

I’ll await the evidence

What evidence is he waiting for at this point?

This was posted after all states were called and Biden had 306 electoral college votes.

There will be no further evidence, as is shown by Trump’s inability to produce any evidence of voter fraud that will hold up in court.

By the way, there’s no need to look back to make this false claim. Trump was already saying weeks in advance that Democrats would try to steal the election after Election Day.

It was common knowledge that mail-in ballots would take longer to count, and it was common knowledge that Democrats would vote by mail in higher numbers.

Here’s another call to Stop Socialism, which is one of Marjorie Taylor Greene’s favourite refrains. It’s somewhat suspicious that the form here is almost exactly the same as the one used by Greene, although the disclaimer states that it is not made by any specific candidate.

Again this is a mailing list barely concealed as a petition.

Petitions are usually sent to someone in power.

The most powerful person in the country just lost his job in a free and fair election.

Misinformation is no joke

Although I find many of the claims made here laughable, there is an extremely sinister reality unfolding before us.

If lies can perpetuate themselves in the ultimate echo chamber, society will only be divided further.

Parler is a harbinger of a world in which even more extremists drive each other to commit acts of violence based on a lie.

If this is where millions of Americans are getting their news already, the 2024 election will be the worst one yet.

The Big Tech

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Rob Sturgeon

Written by

An iOS developer who writes about gadgets, startups and cybersecurity. Swift programming tutorials and SwiftUI documentation too. robsturgeon.com

The Big Tech

The Big Tech covers stories primarily from Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Google and more.

Rob Sturgeon

Written by

An iOS developer who writes about gadgets, startups and cybersecurity. Swift programming tutorials and SwiftUI documentation too. robsturgeon.com

The Big Tech

The Big Tech covers stories primarily from Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Google and more.

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