What is Parler and is it safe to use?

You’ve probably heard about it on the news and wondered what Parler is and why everyone is suddenly talking about it. Essentially, Parler is a social media app like Twitter and Facebook. It became popular around the 2020 US Presidential elections in November last year, as it became clear that the app is heavily used by many conservative politicians, populist media personalities, public figures and supporters of President Donald Trump.

Parler became the most downloaded app on the Apple and Google App Stores on the day of 8 November 2020 – when many major media outlets declared Joe Biden as the newly elected President of the US.

 

What is Parler?

Parler was founded in 2018 and very much resembles Twitter as a concept. It’s built around a newsfeed with accounts you can choose to follow, with the main difference being that users can share updates that are up to 1,000 characters long and can also upload images.

The platform takes its name from the French verb parler which means ‘to speak’ and has declared itself to be “unbiased social media focused on real user experiences and engagement” and a place where users can “speak freely without violence and no censorship”.

The familiar features we’ve all become accustomed to use on social media platforms have been replicated on Parler, but renamed: Retweet is called ‘Echo’, Likes are ‘Votes’, and instead of a blue checkmark, Parler’s elite get a yellow badge to indicate they’re ‘verified influencers’.

The platform has over 12 million users to date.

 

How did it become so popular?

Parler looks to tap into those users who believe that Twitter, and to a lesser extent Facebook, are unfairly censoring some right wing-politicians and public personalities in the US. So when Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms stepped up their efforts to combat misinformation with regards to the UK Presidential Elections, many prominent conservatives claimed their voices have been censored and moved to express their views on Parler.

A significant number of users have since then followed these political and public figures onto Parler as a sign of protest over actions major social media platform have taken against election misinformation.

Earlier this year Amazon suspended Parler from its web hosting service AWS, essentially taking the app offline. Further suspensions by Apple and Google’s App Stores meant that new users were unable to download the app. Parler returned online shortly after, using independent technology to host its service.

 

Is it safe?

Recently, hackers claimed that they managed to download and archive a massive amount of data from Parler before the app was taken offline in January. According to researchers, the platform failed to install basic security measures that would have prevented the automated scrapping of the site’s data.

Parler claims that it keeps all data confidential and personal information is never sold to third parties. When signing up for an account, the app will ask you for your name, email address, display name and a profile photo. To verify your profile, it may ask you for information that can be used to prove that you’re who you claim to be, such as a photo of your government-issued ID. Once the verification process is complete, this information is deleted. Parler says that it only keeps “an anonymised hash corresponding to the information the identification document contains, in order to prevent identity theft”.

Similar to other apps, Parler receives information about the device and software you use to access its service, including your IP address, information about your interaction with the app as well as information from cookies and similar technologies.

Interested to know more about the security of social media platforms? Read some of our blogs on the topic below: