President Donald Trump has been booted from most mainstream social media platforms following the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. But it remains to be seen how fast or where on the internet he will be able to reach his tens of millions of supporters.
The free speech-friendly Parler, a favorite of conservatives, had been the leading candidate, at least until Google and Apple removed it from their app stores and Amazon booted it off its web hosting service just after midnight Pacific time early Monday.
Parler’s CEO said the move could knock it offline for a week, though that might prove optimistic. And even if it finds a friendlier web-hosting service, without a smartphone app, it faces an uphill battle to reach new users.
The platform says it has more than 12 million users, while the mobile app analytics firm Sensor Tower puts the number at 10 million worldwide with 8 million in the U.S.
That’s a fraction of the 89 million followers Trump had on Twitter before he was permanently banned last week.
Still, Parler might be attractive to the president since it’s where his sons Eric and Don Jr. are already active.
It hit serious headwinds last week, though, as Big Tech giants cracked down on the upstart platform.
Google yanked the Parler smartphone app from its app store Friday, claiming it allowed posts that seek “to incite ongoing violence in the U.S.”
Apple followed suit on Saturday evening after giving Parler 24 hours to address complaints it was being used to “plan and facilitate yet further illegal and dangerous activities.” Public safety issues will need to be resolved before it is restored, Apple said.
Amazon struck another blow Saturday, informing Parler it would need to look for a new web-hosting service effective midnight Sunday. “Recently, we’ve seen a steady increase in this violent content on your website, all of which violates our terms,” the company said in a letter to Parler obtained by BuzzFeed.
Parler CEO John Matze decried the punishments in a post Saturday night as “a coordinated attack by the tech giants to kill competition in the marketplace. We were too successful too fast.
He said it was possible Parler would be unavailable for up to a week “as we rebuild from scratch.”
“Every vendor, from text message services to e-mail providers to our lawyers, all ditched us too on the same day,” Matze said Sunday on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures.”
He said while the company is trying to get back online as quickly as possible, it’s “having a lot of trouble, because every vendor we talk to says they won’t work with us, because, if Apple doesn’t approve and Google doesn’t approve, they won’t.”
Losing access to the app stores of Google and Apple — whose operating systems power hundreds of millions of smartphones — severely limits Parler’s reach, though it had continued to be accessible via web browser. Losing Amazon Web Services means Parler needs to scramble to find another web host, in addition to the re-engineering.
Trump might also launch his own platform. “We have been negotiating with various other sites, and will have a big announcement soon, while we look at the possibilities of building out our own platform in the near future,” he tweeted last week.
But that wouldn’t happen overnight, and it surely would run into the same crackdown Parler has faced from Big Tech companies.
Civic media professor Ethan Zuckerman of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, said he expects the deplatforming of Trump and others on the right to spur major shifts online, including an accelerated splintering of the social media world along ideological lines.
“Trump will pull a lot of audience wherever he goes,” Zuckerman said.
That could mean more platforms with smaller, more ideologically isolated audiences.
The Western Journal has reviewed this Associated Press story and may have altered it prior to publication to ensure that it meets our editorial standards.
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