Just as Congress was finishing up grilling the CEOs of Facebook, Google, and Twitter at a hearing on Thursday, Parler published its response to a separate Congressional inquiry into the company’s ties and finances.
In its letter, Parler accused the Big Tech companies of trying to scapegoat the right wing social network in order to avoid accountability for their own roles in what transpired on Jan. 6 when supporters of then-President Donald Trump violently stormed the U.S. Capitol building. Parler also called for an investigation into collusion between the Big Tech companies and alleged anticompetitive practices.
One major point Parler focuses on its letter is that the company “referred violent content and incitement from Parler’s platform over 50 times before January 6th” as well as “specific threads of violence” relating to events being planned at the Capitol on Jan. 6.
However, Parler’s attempt to pile on Facebook while its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, was being admonished by Congress members seems to have backfired.
“So you are snitches over nothing but democrat conspired bs???” commented one user on Parler’s own post about the letter to it’s Parler profile page.
The comments section quickly filled up with some of Parler’s users accusing the right wing social media platform of “ratting out” the site’s own members.
“SO PARLER IS NO BETTER THAN FAKEBOOK AND TWITTER…..?” posted another user in reply. “This is NOT an example of a free speech platform. Parler is a fraud,” claimed yet another.
The reaction to the news that Parler “colluded” with the FBI in order to report violent content was so strong on the right wing platform, the company was compelled to release a statement addressing those outraged users.
In doing so, Parler found itself unironically explaining the First Amendment to its user base filled with members who declare themselves to be “Constitutionalists” and “Free Speech” advocates.
“Some users have raised questions about the practice of referring violent or inciting content to law enforcement,” begins Parler’s latest statement. “The First Amendment does not protect violence inciting speech, nor the planning of violent acts. Such content violates Parler’s TOS. Any violent content shared with law enforcement was posted publicly and brought to our attention primarily via user reporting. And, as it is posted publicly, it can properly be referred to law enforcement by anyone. Parler remains steadfast in protecting your right to free speech.”
Of course, this type of speech that Parler says violates its rules is the same type of speech that social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube say violates their rules. The whole appeal of Parler to its conservative userbase is that the platform supposedly differs from the others on that.
While the replies were more supportive in Parler’s latest announcement, again, some of their users expressed their disapproval with Parler in the comments to that post as well.
“I want some damned response to the farce that we called an election,” repied one user. “Sometimes, violence IS the answer.”
Five people died in the wake of the pro-Trump riot in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 6. Companies like Apple and Google removed Parler’s apps from the web store as a result. Amazon also terminated its web hosting service relationship with Parler, taking the social network offline for a month.
Some of Parler’s claims in its letter to Congress are true. For example, Facebook has been cited in court documents related to the storming of the Capitol more so than any other social network — including Parler. But, one needs to consider that Parler has just a small fraction of users compared to a company like Facebook, so moderating content should be easier for Parler. And content moderation is exactly the issue Apple and Amazon had with Parler, saying the right wing platform was either unwilling or unable to make sure its content was moderated and inline with those platforms’ own terms of service.