The biggest danger of social media is when we retreat into tribal corners. That's where 'fake news' is born.
Following the results of Election Day, the outgoing President has intensified his baseless claims that the results are false, as well as repeating his attacks on democratic institutions, his opponents and, of course, the media.
This grievance orbit has increasingly widened to include criticism of social media platform, almost certainly due to their labelling of his tweets concerning voter fraud, an accusation that has been repeatedly disproven. However, as with any attack emanating from the White House, the cry that social media platforms are censoring "Conservative" voices has been parroted vigorously within the ranks of his most loyal supporters, including Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Mark Levin, Ted Cruz, The Proud Boys and David Duke. Declaring a "mass exodus" from Facebook and Twitter, this group is moving to another app called Parler.
Founded in August 2018, Parler claims to have eight million active users, the majority of which are Trump supporters, conservatives, and right-wing extremists. The majority of content consists of far-right content, antisemitism, and conspiracy theories.
It's also not the first site that has courted conservative users in the past few years, but although it shares similarities to previous alt-right social media alternative incarnations, such as Gab or Telegram, Parler has seen its influence and hope for staying power boosted by the election.
Following the race being called for Biden, millions of angry users seemingly defected to the new app, almost crashing its system, with more than 4.5 million new people signing up for accounts.
Despite the claims of free speech and open discussion, Parler has grown into more of an extremist feedback loop than anything else — and it has the potential to widen an already gaping political chasm in the nation. The platform also has the potential risk of becoming an extremist hunting ground for recruitment, using the election results as an entryway into more hateful rhetoric.
According to the ADL, Parler is a place where "Proud Boys, QAnon adherents, anti-government extremists (Oath Keepers, Three Percenters and militia) and white supremacists (from members of the alt right to accelerationists) openly promote their ideologies on the site, while Holocaust denial, antisemitism, racism and other forms of bigotry are also easy to find."
Speaking with CNN, Oren Segal, vice president at the Anti-Defamation League's Center on Extremism, outlined his worries regarding the platform, "We have seen, time after time, that extremists always look for alternatives to migrate to if they are finding difficulties on the platforms on which they're established," Segal said. "If a lot of people start migrating onto a platform to hear the Laura Ingrahams and Sean Hannitys, but are getting a steady dose of Proud Boys ... that may normalize the fringes in a way that normally it wouldn't."
As weeks pass without a concession from the outgoing President, it remains to be seen just how much influence these fringe groups will gain during the instability that has been left in the absence of a peaceful transfer of power.
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