Conservative social media users who claimed widespread voter fraud after Democrat Joe Biden’s unofficial election victory last week are flocking to the Parler app to spread the conspiracy and avoid Facebook’s crackdown on misinformation, reports say.
Parler, which allows users to post unfounded and disputable facts without excessive content moderation, became the top new download on the Apple App Store over the weekend, according to The Washington Post.
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The 636,000 people who installed Parler on Nov. 8, five days after the election, was the app’s largest number of single-day downloads, the Post reported, citing market research firm Sensor Tower.
Since election week, Parler has grown from about 4.5 million user accounts to 7.6 million, according to the company’s Chief Operating Officer Jeffrey Wernick.
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“I want people to have choices,” he said. “I want there to be one platform out there that people can choose to say, ‘Trust us, we understand there’s a world of disinformation and misinformation, but let us process it.’”
The app, created in 2018, was already home to many who had been banned from Facebook’s platform for policy violations, reports said.
This year, social media companies have urgently sought to protect the 2020 balloting from interference by Russia, whose ruthless disinformation campaign influenced American voters in 2016 and helped derail Hillary Clinton’s chances to win the White House.
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“Although the companies initially developed strategies to prevent interference by foreign actors, domestic misinformation, often spread by [President Donald] Trump and his allies, became a bigger threat as the 2020 election grew close,” the Post reported.
Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have banned certain groups and hashtags and have been labeling dubious content as inaccurate in the effort to quash a new flood of misinformation.
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On Monday, Facebook banned the “Stop the Steal” network, whose hundreds of thousands of members shared dozens of news stories that alleged, without evidence, that election cheating was at play in states where Trump was either trailing or had already lost the race.
Since last Tuesday, Trump’s campaign has filed several legal actions claiming irregularities and demanding a recount in states where Biden’s lead remains razor thin.
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Trump has also continued to attack the veracity of mail-in ballots, suggesting those votes were delivered to the polls after the voting had stopped.
Even before the election, Trump vowed he would refuse to accept the results if they were not in his favor.
Still, the president’s social media posts over the past week, along with similar posts from his supporters, have been labeled with fact-checks that call Biden the projected winner.
With ballot counting unfinished in key battlegrounds and the results still uncertified by all states, many conservatives are hoping that a legal challenge could help to upend Biden’s victory.
What is Parler?
Parler got off the ground two years ago in response to growing “censorship” by Big Tech companies.
The platform gained widespread popularity this summer after high-profile Trump surrogates began using it after Twitter for the first time labeled Trump’s tweets in May, the Post reported.
The app, which has a newsfeed like Twitter, immediately appealed to Republican voters, far-right organizers and conservative pundits who use it to express support for Trump and other conservative causes.
As the too-close-to-call vote count stretched beyond Election Day and as Biden was declared the winner, Trump supporters swarmed to the platform.
“Hurry and follow me at Parler,” tweeted conservative radio host Mark Levin the day after the election was called for Biden, according to the Post. “I’m trying to encourage as many of you as possible to immediately join me there as I may not stay at Facebook or Twitter if they continue censoring me.”
High-profile Republicans have also joined the chorus of new Parler users, including Republican Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, Fox News hosts Sean Hannity, Maria Bartiromo and Trump campaign legal adviser Jenna Ellis, according to the Post.