Technology

Parler is relaunching. Can it succeed without Big Tech?

The right-wing friendly social media network Parler, which was forced offline after supporters of then-President Donald Trump led the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, says it is relaunching.

The Twitter alternative has been struggling to return online since Amazon ended its web-hosting agreement on Jan. 11 over its unwillingness to remove posts inciting violence. Google and Apple removed Parler’s app from their online stores for the same reason.

Parler said in an emailed statement Monday that it would be led by an interim CEO, Mark Meckler of the Tea Party Patriots movement. It said the service would be brought back online for current users this week with new users being able to sign up next week – and would not be reliant on “Big Tech.”

The site’s homepage, however, was a single, static page whose lead post reminded viewers of “technical difficulties.” While it was possible to log in via a different variation of that URL, Parler’s iPhone app did not work, yielding a “networking error” when an Associated Press reporter tried it. Among new posters was Fox News personality Sean Hannity.

Guidelines accessible on the site, dated Sunday, said Parler would use technology and human review to remove “threatening or inciting content.” They said a “community jury” headed by a Parler employee would hear appeals.

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Parler was being hosted by a Los Angeles cloud services company, SkySilk. Ron Guilmette, a California-based internet researcher and activist, said SkySilk appeared to be a small outfit and that it was not clear to him whether it could provide adequate security for the site. In particular, Mr. Guilmette cited the need for robust defense against denial-of-service attacks, which flood a site with data traffic to make it inaccessible. Such attacks are a threat to any major internet site – especially if their content is at all controversial.

SkySilk did not respond to questions about the level of support the company is providing.

Its CEO, Kevin Matossian, said in a statement that the company “does not advocate nor condone hate, rather it advocates the right to private judgment and rejects the role of being the judge, jury, and executioner. Unfortunately, too many of our fellow technology providers seem to differ in their position on this subject.”

Mr. Mattossian added that his company applauded Parler’s new community guidelines.

For a time after Amazon dropped it, Parler received denial-of-service protection from a Russian-based outfit called DDoS-Guard. That ended following revelations that DDoS-Guard had provided services to shady operations, including online forums popular with credit card thieves.

In a lawsuit seeking to force Amazon to restore its service, Parler’s management claimed that Amazon aimed to deny Mr. Trump “a platform on any large social-media service.” That followed Twitter’s decision to permanently ban the former president from its service and similar indefinite bans by Facebook and Instagram.

Parler’s previous CEO, John Matze, says he was fired on Jan. 29 by the Parler board, which is controlled by conservative donor Rebekah Mercer. At the time, Mr. Matze told The New York Times that he’d told Ms. Mercer that Parler needed to consider preventing domestic terrorists, white supremacists, and followers of QAnon – a baseless conspiracy theory – from posting on the platform.

The 2 1/2-year-old social media site claims 20 million users. Mr. Trump never established an account there, although Buzzfeed reported that he considered buying a stake in Parler while he was president.

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