Conservative-friendly social media platforms are on the rise, as traditional ones likes Twitter and Facebook crack down on misleading or false posts.
As thousands of President Donald Trump’s supporters swarmed Washington last week, one hacker archived their posts on Parler to help reconstruct the role the social media platform played in the deadly assault on the Capitol.
The hacker, who goes by @donk_enby on Twitter, said her goal was to preserve every post from Wednesday’s Capitol breach before the Parler platform was taken down, like “a bunch of people running into a burning building trying to grab as many things as we can.”
Parler and @donk_enby didn’t immediately respond to USA TODAY’s requests for comment.
According to the Atlantic Council, Parler is one of the social media platforms popular with conservatives and extremists that was used to plan last week’s riots. Others cited include Gab and MeWe.
How about Gab? What is Gab, the social network gaining popularity among conservatives?
Parler goes dark: Amazon suspends the social platform from its web hosting services
The Parler website went dark early Monday after Amazon’s web hosting service suspended the company. It was the latest step taken by tech companies in response to the Capitol siege. Google and Apple also removed the Parler app from their app stores.
“We are still learning the extent the platform was used by insurrectionists to plan and execute the Jan. 6th breach of the Capitol,” Britt Paris, a critical informatics scholar and associate professor at Rutgers University who tracks misinformation campaigns, said in a statement.
“As Capitol metadata specialists and independent security researchers access these troves of scraped messages – which include messages deleted in the aftermath of Jan. 6th – we will see a clearer picture of the role Parler played in the attack,” Paris said.
A group of activist hackers also salvaged much of what happened on Parler before it went offline and plan to put it in a public archive, the Associated Press reported.
The downloading and archiving of content from Parler, including image files that can be tied to geographic locations, has rattled Parler users, though law enforcement would likely have been able to access the data anyway, and experts said the archive does not include information that was not publicly accessible.
“If this wasn’t done, we would only have fragments and scraps of the information that was on Parler before the takedown,” said Gabriella Coleman, an anthropologist at McGill University who has studied hacker movements. “It’s important because these forums are increasingly where people come together to organize themselves. You learn about motivations, ideological tactics.”
Parler archive: What’s in the data
Hacker @donk_enby’s archived material lives at ArchiveTeam.org. According to @donk_enby, “only things that were available publicly via the web were archived.”
Gizmodo reported that the material will eventually be hosted by the Internet Archive.
The archived material includes “original, unprocessed, raw files as uploaded to Parler with all associated metadata,” the hacker said Sunday. Later, the hacker shared a tweet containing a screenshot of metadata included in the upload with location data such as GPS longitude and GPS latitude.
Monday night she also tweeted about where to find the “metadata from all 30TB of those videos.” The cache of data is not yet easily readable by non-experts.
Parler became popular among conservatives as a much more loosely moderated forum during the 2020 presidential election cycle when both Facebook and Twitter began more aggressively policing and labeling content.
Last week after Facebook, Twitter and other mainstream social media platforms silenced Trump’s accounts over comments that incited Wednesday’s storming of the Capitol, the 2-year-old platform welcomed a surge of new users and became the No. 1 free app on iPhones. But its growing popularity was short-lived as tech companies like Amazon de-platformed Parler for the role it played.
Parler CEO John Matze called the series of actions “a coordinated attack by the tech giants to kill competition in the marketplace.”
Matze has signaled there is little chance of getting Parler back online anytime soon after “every vendor, from text message services to email providers, to our lawyers all ditched us too on the same day,” he told Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures.”
In a Monday interview with Fox Business, he said the company “may even have to go as far as buying and building our own data centers and buying up our own servers.”
Parler filed a lawsuit in federal court Monday arguing that Amazon violated antitrust laws to harm Parler and help Twitter. It also alleged Amazon breached its contract by not giving 30 days of notice before terminating Parler’s account.
In a statement sent to USA TODAY Tuesday, Amazon said there is no merit to the claims and that the company told Parler about its concerns over a number of weeks but saw “a significant increase in this type of dangerous content, not a decrease, which led to our suspension of their services Sunday evening.”
“AWS provides technology and services to customers across the political spectrum, and we respect Parler’s right to determine for itself what content it will allow,” the statement said. “However, it is clear that there is significant content on Parler that encourages and incites violence against others, and that Parler is unable or unwilling to promptly identify and remove this content, which is a violation of our terms of service.”
Contributing: Jessica Guynn and Jessica Menton, USA TODAY; Associated Press
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