Parler, a right-wing social media site, lures conservatives, but Trump sticks with Twitter — so far

Angry over what they see as political bias at Twitter and Facebook, President Trump’s campaign team and other conservative figures have begun looking for alternatives, and many of them have flocked to a right-wing site known as Parler.

Using their Twitter and Facebook accounts — which they appear to have mostly kept — to promote the migration, Republicans in Washington and conservative media personalities have started posting regularly on Parler.

Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., touted Parler’s lack of “leftist propaganda” to his 1.1 million Twitter followers as a reason to make the switch. So far, however, Nunes has just 59,000 followers on Parler.

After this reporter signed up, my first post, automatically generated by the site, read, “I just joined Parler! Looking forward to meeting everyone here!”

That message triggered unsolicited replies. One from John Matze, the site’s founder and CEO, who started Parler in 2018, welcoming me and encouraging me to tell my friends about the platform.

A second prewritten reply came from Ron Paul, the libertarian former House member from Texas, former Republican presidential candidate and father of Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.

“I’ve spent my adult life fighting for Liberty, and I am excited about this new space where I can openly share my work with special people like you,” Paul’s message stated. “Parler accepts your right to express your thoughts, opinions and ideals online. No ‘throttling.’ No shadow banning. Just Free Speech— our God-given, Constitutional Right.”

Like Twitter, Parler generates several suggested accounts to follow, but they all occupy a similar place on the political spectrum. They included Nunes, Paul, Fox News host Mark Levin, White House deputy chief of staff for communications Dan Scavino, the right-wing financial blog Zero Hedge (which was banned last week from Google’s advertising platform), Lara Trump, Trump campaign senior adviser Katrina Pierson, Donald Trump Jr., Sen. Rand Paul, Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, Eric Trump, Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale, conspiracy theorist and Republican House candidate Laura Loomer, Fox News host Dan Bongino, Rep. Paul Gosar of Texas and the Conservative Political Action Committee.

President Trump, who to date has not joined Parler. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images)

One notable absence in the “people to follow” list was President Trump himself. For the moment, Trump has not abandoned Twitter, the platform where he has 82.3 million followers, despite the fact that the site continues to flag his tweets with warnings and fact checks. Last week, Twitter removed a manipulated video posted by Trump after receiving a complaint from the holder of its copyright.

With most of Trump’s family and staff now ensconced on Parler, speculation is rising that the president will soon follow, but Gab, another conservative alternative to Twitter and Facebook, is doing its best to lure Trump to its platform by promoting itself as more than a right-wing echo chamber.

“We aspire to be much more than a social network for Z-list MAGA celebrities,” Andrew Torba, Gab’s founder, told the Daily Beast. “We want to create a place for free thought online for the entire world.”

The list of trending hashtags at Parler on Monday morning made it clear that the site isn’t exactly a wellspring of variety when it comes to political opinion: #MAGA, #KAG and #TRUMP2020 took their place beside #Q, #QANON and #WWG1WGA (an abbreviation for the QAnon motto “Where We Go One We Go All”).

As advertised, Parler does not restrict or ban users for posts, no matter how offensive or absurd, such as one claiming that former first lady Michelle Obama is actually a transvestite. Other threads mock Black Lives Matter protesters and decry the movement to remove Confederate monuments.

Yet Parler does not screen the political views of its users, and a number of parody accounts have already sprung up.

A parody account for Rep. Devin Nunes on the website Parler. (Screengrab via Parler)

Trump has often complained about social media companies that restrict or flag his posts, but he rarely stays off Twitter for even a whole day; he began posting on Monday at 6:10 a.m. and as of 2:30 p.m. had sent out 13 messages, for a total since he opened his account in May 2009 of 49,857.

Parler, with just over 1 million users, reaches a tiny fraction of Twitter’s 321 million active users. If Trump switched and brought even a few of his millions of Twitter followers with him, those numbers would certainly change.

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