Parler, the (until recently) fast-growing social network popular on the far right, re-emerged on Monday after about a month of dormancy. Now users who egged on the insurrection and violence during the Jan. 6 siege of the U.S. Capitol are flocking back to the platform, too—including the leader of the Proud Boys and a user who has been charged with threatening members of Congress.
Parler came under heavy scrutiny from the press, law enforcement, and researchers during the presidential transition as election-related misinformation and calls for violence proliferated on the site. Users spread lies about voter fraud and encouraged the insurrectionists who stormed Congress. GPS data (gathered by a hacker through legal means) showed that some members of the platform had even breached the Capitol themselves. Amid the controversy, Parler was hesitant to step up its moderation, and continued to market itself as a neutral town square in contrast to Twitter and Facebook, which had booted President Donald Trump after he incited the riot as well as members of the QAnon conspiracy theory.
On Jan. 10, Amazon removed Parler from its cloud services for failing to moderate violent content on the network. John Matze, a co-founder of Parler, claimed earlier this month that he was fired as CEO by conservative donor Rebekah Mercer, who controls the company’s board, after pushing for the platform to crack down on domestic terrorists and violence. Mark Meckler, founder of the Tea Party Patriots group, is serving as the interim CEO. Parler was without a cloud host until this week, when the California-based cloud services company SkySilk swooped in to get the platform back online.
Parler has claimed it will monitor violent content on its rebooted site with human and A.I. moderators and will hide posts that attack someone based on sex, sexual orientation, race, or religion with a “trolling filter.” Users can still click through the filter to view the content, however. SkySilk CEO Kevin Matossian has framed his company’s decision to now host Parler as a move to promote free speech.
An examination of the newly restored Parler reveals that it’s still a home for accounts that cheered on the Capitol riot. These include Immortal Noble Beard, a self-proclaimed “4th degree Proud Boy” and verified user on Parler. On Jan. 6, the account sent out dozens of posts encouraging the rioters that were seen tens of thousands of times. “Hang these motherfuckers on the capitol lawn,” one post read. “DO NOT GO HOME. WE ARE ON THE CUSP OF SAVING THE CONSTITUTION. Stay on the grounds patriots,” he wrote in another. He also posted that gaining access to state capitol buildings would “be a success” and called on rioters to “find the traitors and get the rope.” Despite multiple reports about his violent rhetoric, the Immortal Noble Beard was back on the platform on Monday, celebrating the return of Parler with a post reading, “Tfw the left does everything they can to shut us up and the heroes behind the scenes @parler get the site back up and running so free speech can still live in this world.” His posts from Jan 6., however, are not available; Parler wiped everything users posted prior to Monday. The Immortal Noble Beard hasn’t sent out any violent posts since then.
Another verified account belonging to Enrique Tarrio, chairman of the far-right group the Proud Boys, is also back on Parler. A judge banned Tarrio from D.C. before the riot occurred. As the violence was engulfing the Capitol, however, he wrote posts like “Don’t fucking leave” and “This is no longer Washington DC… This is the City of The People of the United States of America! Come and Take it!” He also posted a picture of the QAnon Shaman in the Senate Chamber with the caption “Hero. Proud Of Your Boy!” and another picture of lawmakers crouching bellow their seats in the House gallery with the caption “When the people fear the government, there is tyranny… When the government fears the people… There is liberty.” Tarrio’s first post after the return of Parler read, “We are ALL inevitable. Hands are back on our weapons… Let’s put in some work!”
An account that participated in potentially law-breaking activity has re-emerged as well. On Jan. 14, the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia charged a 58-year-old Texas man named Troy Anthony Smocks in connection with making threats on Parler about the Capitol riot. “The threats included that he and others would return to the U.S. Capitol on January 19, 2021, carrying weapons and massing in numbers so large that no army could match them,” a press release about the charge read. “Smocks threatened that he and others would ‘hunt these cowards down like the Traitors that each of them are,’ specifically threatening ‘RINOS, Dems, and Tech Execs.’ The threats issued by Smocks were viewed by other social media users tens of thousands of times.” The U.S. attorney also alleged that Smocks used the handle @Colonel007 to send the threats. That account remains on Parler, though it has been set to private.
Smaller accounts that were cheerleading the insurrectionists are also back online. “When will you #wakeupamerica,” a user with the handle Rapperjizzle408 posted a couple days after the riot according to Fortune. “Your words are no longer saving shit #civilwar is #necessary now!” The account is still on the platform but set to private. A user with the handle The Inka Matrix posted around the same time, “The only medicine for traitors and Marxists [is] death.” The Inka Matrix’s account is also back, but the user is now mostly just sending out posts trashing Parler and encouraging followers to instead go to Gab, another “free speech” social network that is popular among white supremacists. And another QAnon-affiliated account operating under the handle CM_Patriot wrote during the riot, “Shut them down Mr. President, try them, hang or shoot them publicly, the traitors, thieves, and perverts who have taken our great, blessed, country hostage.” The first post the account sent out on Monday read, “good to see Parler again.”
Parler did not respond to Slate’s requests for comment on these accounts.
Parler originally went down after services it relied on to operate pulled their business. Before Amazon Web Services cut it off, the network was booted from Apple and Google’s app stores. Web-infrastructure services like AWS and Cloudflare don’t typically participate in content moderation actions, though it can happen in some extreme situations, as was the case with the notorious imageboard 8chan. “SkySilk is well aware that Parler has received an aggressive response from those who believe their platform has been used as a safe haven for some bad actors,” Matossian, SkySilk’s CEO, told NPR. “Let me be clear, SkySilk 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.”
Matossian also said he believes that Parler is taking the “necessary steps” to monitor content.
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