Free Speech Social Media App Parler Goes from 1M to 1.5M Users in One Week

Who knew that there was market for free speech?


Jim Jordan, Elise Stefanik and Nikki Haley all have something in common, other than a strong affection towards President Trump.

The three Republican politicians joined social media app Parler this week, adding their profiles to a site that’s emerged as the new digital stomping ground for anti-Twitter conservatives. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas arrived earlier this month and Rep. Devin Nunes of California started in February, while Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky has been a member since 2018, the year the app launched.

“It’s about time y’all joined me on @parler_app,” Paul tweeted on Wednesday. “What’s taking the rest of you so long?!”

To be fair, Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale has also been on Parler since 2018.Eric Trump, the president’s son, and his wife, Lara, joined on the same day last month. Like Twitter, the app lets users share comments, photos and news stories with their followers.

The catalyst for the latest growth surge was a story from The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, which said that the Trump administration was looking for alternatives to Facebook and Twitter over concern that more content is going to be blocked as the election campaign heats up. The Journal named Parler as a possible alternative.

Two days later, Parler was the top-ranked iPhone app in the news category, ahead of Twitter and Reddit, and 24th overall, just behind Venmo and WhatsApp, according to App Annie. User growth surged to 1.5 million from 1 million over the course of about a week, said John Matze, Parler’s 27-year-old founder and CEO.

“We’re a community town square, an open town square, with no censorship,” Matze said in an interview on Thursday, from his home in Las Vegas. “If you can say it on the street of New York, you can say it on Parler.”

Not to look a gift horse in the mouth – it’s good that he made this, and it’s clearly better than Twitter – but I don’t have to give someone my phone number to say something to them on the street of New York.

I guess people are in such a hurry to roll back to when social networks had free speech, it didn’t occur to anyone that they were even better when they were private.

Parler is playing into the hands of conservatives, who have become more vocal in their criticism of Twitter since the site started flagging Trump’s tweets for promoting violence or abusive behavior or making false claims that could confuse voters. Trump supporters have long argued that the dominant Silicon Valley platforms have been out to censor conservative voices, even as those very same people continue to post on those sites and rack up followers by the thousands.

Rep. Jordan of Ohio told his 1.4 million Twitter followers on Friday to come over to Parler, where they “don’t censor or shadow ban,” referring to the practice of banning users in a way that’s not apparent to them. By late afternoon he had about 3,100 followers on Parler.

When Nunes joined in February, he told his Twitter fans, which number 1.1 million, to join him on Parler if they’re “tired of left wing censorship of big tech.” Nunes has an infamous relationship with Twitter, after attempting to sue the company for defamation and negligence and naming as defendants two anonymous parody accounts, “Devin Nunes’ Mom” and “Devin Nunes’ Cow.”

“With Devin Nunes came a whole pack of haters,” said Matze. He said that parody accounts are fine and even welcome, but Parler draws a line when it comes to spammers. “You can’t spam people’s comment sections with unrelated content,” he said.

That’s not the only no-no on Parler, which has a fairly thorough set of community guidelines. The app doesn’t allow terrorist organizations or support for terrorism, the sharing of false rumors, violent language (what the site describes as “fighting words”) toward others, blackmail or pornography. 

For verification, Parler awards a gold badge to public figures to distinguish them from parody accounts, which get a purple badge.

There’s much more to do first, though, on the product side. For example, sharing content isn’t as easy as on other networks. If you share a post with a friend via a text message, the other person can’t view it without being logged in. Matze says he’s “fully intent on opening the platform” but user growth has gotten in the way of building it out.

For the Trump campaign, that appears to be a significant hurdle. Parscale, who has 159,000 followers on Parler, compared to almost 700,000 on Twitter, made a number of suggestions to the company last month, like recommending that it spend money to lure more media members and hire a designer.

With just a few months until the election and Trump sinking in the polls, he’s not hiding his ultimate goal.

“It must be buttoned up,” he wrote on May 29. “I want to love it. I want to use it, I want to help. However, more than anything I want to win in November.”

In other words, they somehow made it less functional than Twitter, by closing it to being viewed from the outside.

Clearly, the guy who made this thing just hates everything that is good in the world. There is no reason to make it so the public can’t view your network, unless it’s a monopoly.

Really, it all comes down to this issue: Why would you name your social network after the French word for “speak”?

I guess this guy just doesn’t want anyone to find him on any search engine, either? Because if you search the term, you get information about the basic French word.

You have to be seriously new to the Internet to do something like this. It is like hacking the FBI and then sending them a picture of your girlfriend’s tits without scrubbing the metadata. It is an action which is so unserious that any person who does it will forever be defined as an unserious person.

This is also a stupid name. Like – yes, okay, a social network is for speaking. Great observation, guy.

Anyway, this may actually be the best option we have right now for social networks. It’s gotta be better than Gab.

The signup page isn’t working right now, probably due to a flood of traffic. But when it does, there can be only one true test of social network freedoms:

Will they ban Andrew Anglin?