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Paris (AFP) – In the process of being bought by Kanye West, the social network Parler enjoys some popularity among the American ultra-right and those close to former President Donald Trump.
The platform was withdrawn for several months from the main mobile application stores in early 2021 due to insufficient content moderation, and the platform ended up being approved again. But it is far from competing with giants like Facebook or Twitter.
The 45-year-old rapper, who goes by the name Ye, justified his intended acquisition by saying he wanted to defend conservative opinions and “the right to express oneself freely”.
Parler presents itself as an alternative to traditional social networks, positioning itself as a defender of free speech against groups accused of censorship and anti-conservative bias by the American right.
The network was launched in the summer of 2018 by John Matze, a computer engineer, and Rebekah Mercer, a major GOP donor.
Relatively confidential until 2021, its popularity saw its rise with the ouster of Donald Trump from Twitter, as the former US president had encouraged his followers before the invasion of the Capitol on January 6, 2021.
Kanye West’s proposed takeover comes as the rapper faces accusations of racism and anti-Semitism, which have notably seen him restricted on his Twitter and Instagram accounts.
“By acquiring Parler, Kanye can ensure that he can say what he wants on the platform,” note Joshua Tucker, co-director of the Center for Social Media and Politics (CSMaP) at New York University, and Megan Brown, engineer at CSMaP.
“It may also be that owning a social network is now becoming a status symbol for the outspoken ultra-wealthy, especially those who have encountered problems with existing platforms,” they add.
Donald Trump launched his own platform at the start of the year, while Elon Musk, the quirky boss of Tesla and SpaceX, is engaged in a saga of twists and turns surrounding his takeover of Twitter.
Very far from Facebook
According to specialist firm data.ai, Parler has been downloaded 8.5 million times since its launch, including 6.2 million times in the US.
In September, the application collected only 58,000 downloads worldwide on iOS and Google Play, far from the 72 million downloads recorded by Facebook during the same period.
Asked by AFP about its number of users and its financial situation, Parler did not respond.
Donald Trump does not have an official account on the platform.
Kanye West, who opened his Parler account last week, is followed by 1,800 subscribers. He has more than 31 million on Twitter and 18.2 million on Instagram.
Forbidden then allowed
Apple and Google regret the many threats of violence and illegal activities on the network after the attack on the Capitol in January 2021 and had removed it from their download platforms.
Amazon Web Services (AWS) had also decided to no longer host it on its servers, effectively banishing the platform.
Parler has been re-accepted in the App Store since April 2021 and in the Google Play Store since September 2021.
“Probably there was a change in Parler’s policies rather than Google’s or Apple’s,” said Joshua Tucker and Megan Brown.
In addition to Parler, a galaxy of social networks aimed at an ultra-conservative audience have swarmed in recent years in the US, notably Gettr, Gab and Rumble.
In February, Donald Trump’s platform, Truth Social, entered the scene, a post marred by several technical glitches.
After being removed from the Google Play Store this summer due to a moderation policy deemed inadequate, the application has been re-approved since last week.
The audience on these different networks is so far limited.
According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, only 6% of Americans get their news regularly through one of these so-called “alternative” applications.
© 2022 AFP