Originally published in La Plaza Press
By ISAAC MEJIA, MIA ARANDA, and LILY SHAW
Following the violence at Capitol Hill, Parler, a conservative social networking service, suffered a fatal blow. Approximately twenty-four hours after President Trump was banned from Twitter for “[inspiring] others to replicate the violent acts” that transpired at the Capitol, several big tech companies removed Parler from their app stores.
Parler app logo shown on an iPhone on Jan. 25, 2020. Parler is known for its largely conservative platform and loose moderation guidelines. (MIA ARANDA/ La Plaza photo)
Companies such as Google, Amazon, and Apple supported the app, supplying it with storage to support its large quantity of servers and providing the platform through which the public could access the app. Even though Parler reached number one on the app store with one and half million downloads, these companies still chose to ban the app from their stores.
They claim that Parler’s users helped coordinate the storming of Capitol Hill and contributed to the event by promoting violence and illegal activity. In regards to the justification of the app’s shutdown, the two sides of the political aisle hold a different perspective.
Chief Executive Officer perspective
In a Fox News interview with John Matze, CEO of Parler, Matze labeled the app’s shutdown as an “assault on everybody.” According to Matze, every vendor of the app is unwilling to work with them because Apple and Amazon do not approve of the app. They “falsely claim” that Parler was responsible for the incident at the Capitol; however, Matze professed that the app has “never allowed violence” and does not even “have a way to coordinate an event” like the violence that occured on Jan. 6.
Giant corporations like Apple and Amazon possess great power and influence over other companies. They are well aware that their statements of support or disapproval resonate loudly across the nation. If the app is portrayed as a bad investment for the upper echelon of the business world, it is perceived as a bad investment for every other company as well. They have the ability to destroy the app, and it seems likely that they are using their influence to portray the app in a negative light.
Since their condemnation of the app, it is nearly impossible for Matze to gain any support from investors who have the ability to fund them. In a different press interview, Matze explained that since Scylla Enterprise has stopped backing them, the app “can no longer process ads and have revenue.” In addition, “no one can pay for anything to Parler with American Express.” As more and more companies dissociate themselves from Parler, its survival is unlikely. It cannot function without the help of other companies. Even though Matze renounced all claims linking the app with the Capitol attack, the largest corporations still chose to terminate their involvement with Parler, figuratively jumping off of a sinking ship and dragging it down with them. Matze believes that they are using the storming of the Capitol as an “excuse to silence free speech.”
The Capitol Hill riot is one of the most blatant displays of White supremacy in American history, and the app Parler played a pivotal role in planning and encouraging it.
Parler prides itself on promoting free speech due to their minimal regulations, persuading many conservatives and Trump supporters to flock to the app to voice their opinions. According to Wired, prior to the Capitol Hill riot, Parler COO Jeffrey Wernick said, “Parler doesn’t have a hate speech policy. Hate speech has no definition, okay? It’s not a legal term,” which has become an appeal to the app for many.
According to ABC News, many extremists posted memes with intentional war imagery, hashtags such as #FightForTrump and #TheStormIsHere and even named specific politicians to target on Parler, promoting the vicious Capitol breach.
Pro-Trump rioters were able to push past police lines, scale balconies, smash windows and breach Capitol barricades prompting the Capitol to lock down and the Senate Chamber to evacuate its members.
U.S. representative Pramila Jayapal tweeted on Jan. 6, “I was one of a dozen Representatives in the gallery above the House floor. We pulled out gas masks and had to get down on the ground. Capitol police barricaded the doors and had guns drawn. We were eventually told that we had to quickly exit.”
Michelle Obama wrote in her response on Jan. 7 to this event: “They desecrated the center of American government. And once authorities finally gained control of the situation, these rioters and gang members were led out of the building not in handcuffs, but free to carry on with their days.”
After the insurrection took place and flooded social media, non-Trump supporters were horrified by the insecurity and use of gentle police force at Capitol Hill. They were quick to contrast the harsh reality of the police force on people of color to white people in America. Viral clips circulated through social media of police willingly taking selfies with the rioters and even opening a gate for them.
The surge of Black Lives Matters protests in the summer of 2020 were monumental in demanding racial justice and equality. However, protestors have criticized the police for using unnecessary force on them. Throughout the summer, peaceful protests were met with tear gas and rubber bullets, both of which can create serious injury.
According to USA Today, Charlie Mesloh, a certified instructor on the use of police projectiles and a professor at Northern Michigan University, said, “On day one of training, they tell you, ‘Don’t shoot anywhere near the head or neck.’ That’s considered deadly force.”
In response to Capitol Hill, President Joe Biden addressed the inequality from law enforcement on Jan. 7 in which he said, “No one can tell me that if it had been a group of Black Lives Matter protesting yesterday, they wouldn’t have been treated very differently than the mob of thugs that stormed the Capitol.”
The chaos imposed by the pro-Trump groups on Jan. 6 highlights the evident double standards that continue to exist in the United States of how law enforcement view whites versus people of color. Some have noted that police forces don’t view white Americans as terrorists simply due to their skin color.
Former president Donald Trump is responsible for encouraging white supremacists to raid the Capitol as he had posted on Twitter on Jan. 3: “See you in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6. Don’t miss it! More information to follow.”
This event has led Trump into another impeachment trial as well as a permanent suspension from all major social media platforms in order to prevent further incitement of violence.
With a large conservative platform, if Parler had strict content moderation guidelines, like Facebook, the promotion of an event like this may have been avoided, averting destruction, fear and violence. Due to Parler’s shutdown, conservatives and Trump supporters may have no choice but to return to their Twitter and Facebook accounts.
Overall, this can aid in preventing another planned insurrection due to Facebook and Twitter guidelines; one of Twitter’s safety rules specifically states “You may not threaten or promote terrorism or violent extremism.” In addition, Facebook and Twitter have lower ratios of conservative to liberal users, compared to Parler’s nearly all conservative and Republican audience.
Parler shutting down, even if temporarily, is for the best, as the country recovers from this devastating, sickening incident. An app like Parler does not deserve to be supported, for the fact that in its short existence, it has proven to be one of the all-time greatest threats to American democracy.
Did the raiding of Capitol Hill prompt the shutdown of conservative app Parler? After former president Donald J Trump was banned from multiple social media platforms, Parler was filled with thoughts and opinions mainly from unhappy people. Not only were they expressing their feelings on Parler, but on Twitter, and out in the community.
Ohio Republican Congressman Jim Jordan was one of many people who spoke out on the situation. He tweeted, “First, Democrats support government shutting down small business during #COVID19. Now, Democrats support big business shutting down their competition. We’d post this on Parler, but no one could see it.”
Josh Hawley, an American attorney and politician, tweeted: “My statement on the woke mob at @simonschuster: ‘…It’s a direct assault of the First Amendment. Only approved speech can now be published…I will fight this canceled culture with everything I have. See you in court.’” With 74.7K reshares, many other conservatives replied to his tweet in agreement.
In the face of the app’s transformation from a focus on freedom of speech to government sabotage, Parler was first removed from Amazon’s app store. Later, Apple and Google removed the app on their respective platforms.
The app was taken down after it had been used to “plan and coordinate” the attack on Capitol Hill (Engineering & Technology). However, Parler was not the only app that had been used to plan the attack. Pro-Trump website, TheDonald, also had comments including explicit and highly-detailed plans. TheDonald was later taken off the internet by founder Jody Williams. Parler and TheDonald obtained receipts of storming the capital, breaking into federal buildings, and committing violence acts towards government officials and law enforcement.
Although Parler was not the only app used to plan the raids and the app was originally created as a freedom of speech platform, it did lead to the shutdown of the app.