Parler: Promises ‘Freedom from Censorship’ Amid Big Tech Midterm Preparations

Parler says it will be a hub for free speech leading up to the midterm elections amid ongoing efforts by tech companies to combat misinformation. The alternative social network has said it will be a “viewpoint-neutral, free speech” website. Although many of the Big Tech companies have amped up their efforts to combat false information spread, Parler has said it is offering a hands-off approach and allows its users to post as they like.

The team from Parler argues that efforts by other platforms including Facebook and Twitter to manage what their users see do not do justice for their users. “Many people on the other platforms have become intellectually lazy, where they have expected the platform to do their thinking for them,” said Amy Peikoff, chief policy officer at Parler. “[Users are] outsourcing their critical thinking to their platforms, to these employees in Silicon Valley. On Parler, we don’t do that.”

Parler has promised “freedom from censorship” in a press release which emphasized that rather than suppressing content via an algorithm, it would emphasize all legal speech. Parler said that while it intends to updates its users on any and all developments in the 2022 midterm elections, it doesn’t intend to babysit or hold the hands of users.

At the most, the social network said, “we might put out a PSA, just reminding people that we’re unlike other platforms in that we actually expect them to do their own critical thinking and to remind them that just because it appears online doesn’t mean it’s true,” said Peikoff.

Platform will step in for fraud, hate speech, violence

Chief policy officer Peikoff also emphasized that although the platform will not intervene if a user posts false information, it will step in if a user or account encourages hate speech, fraud or violence. “We don’t remove any content based on viewpoint or on the content of the view expressed unless you’re talking about something that is inciteful in nature, violent in nature, fraudulent in nature, where it’s actually a provable fraud,” said Peikoff.

Peikoff said that Parler has acted when users attempted to impersonate notable people and has policies that allow it to verify whether a user’s claimed identity is authentic. In January 2021, Parler was removed from both the Google Play Store and Apple App Store after posts from several people involved in the January 6 riots were found by researchers.

Parler was allowed back onto Apple in May of 2021 after making changes to its content moderation policies. However, it did not refile to be allowed back onto Android devices for many months, because it knew it could be accessed via “sideloading” the app rather than relying on a digital store, said Peikoff. To be accepted, Parler had to amend its content moderation standards to take offensive content into account.

Parler decided to make the move after other social platforms announced that they would incorporate policies to handle misinformation. TikTok, Google, Twitter and Meta said they would take actions to implement changes to reflect accurate election information.