Are Facebook and Twitter Finally Paying the Price for Censorship of Conservatives?

Screen grab of Sen. Rand Paul’s Parler account.

Has the dam broken following the build-up of conservative frustration over one-sided censorship against them by Facebook and Twitter?

Evidence of that – which had built up for weeks – turned into a flood over the last ten days.

What had been a quiet trend of sign-ups by publicly known conservatives – including many elected officials – turned into an out-and-out campaign to urge followers to join them in social media alternative platform Parler (originally “Par-lay” per the French spelling; apparently the English literal pronunciation is acceptable now too). According to report by Business Insider, tech data trackers said Parler reached No. 2 for Top News apps on the App Store.

“According to data Sensor Tower has provided to Business Insider, Parler has seen a 246% increase in US downloads this week compared with a week prior,” the site reported. “On Wednesday Parler saw the biggest number of daily installs it’s ever had: Users downloaded the app an estimated 40,000 times in 24 hours, Apptopia told Business Insider.”

Perhaps the most ominous signal came from Trump re-election campaign manager Brad Parscale, who warned Twitter on June 19th that its “days are numbered,” after the liberal-leaning platform unnecessarily labeled a humorous-but-innocuous video parody of “Fake News CNN” – posted by the President – as “manipulated media.” The creator of the video, popular conservative meme-maker “Carpe Donktum,” was permanently removed from Twitter last week.

It marked a turning point for Parscale, whose only previous statements about Parler were only criticisms for its functionality and technical shortcomings, compared to Twitter.

Twitter has recently upped its negative disclaimers – and sometimes outright censorship – on some tweets posted by President Trump, who is its most famous user. Last month Twitter shielded a tweet by Trump that said, during the riots following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, that said, “These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!” Twitter warned readers that the tweet violated its policies for “glorifying violence.”

Twitter also placed a warning on a June 23rd Trump tweet in which he wrote, “There will never be an “Autonomous Zone” in Washington, D.C., as long as I’m your President. If they try they will be met with serious force!” Twitter said it violated “our policy against abusive behavior, specifically, the presence of a threat of harm against an identifiable group.”

Trump’s apparent November opponent, Democrat Joe Biden, has not experienced similar treatment from Twitter, despite the campaign itself posting obvious “manipulated media” to make Trump look bad.

Facebook has also gotten into the speech suppression act against Trump, after receiving pressure from its own leftist Silicon Valley employees and other Democrats over its policy to not restrict or delete his posts. Last week CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the platform would start labeling political content that violates its policies – an apparent about-face from late last year, when he said he believed free speech should prevail when it comes to political content.

Also last week, Project Veritas released new videos of whistleblowers who captured former Facebook colleagues saying they suppressed conservative content. “If someone is wearing a MAGA hat,” said one content moderator, “I am going to delete them for terrorism.”

And several large corporate sponsors said last week they would halt advertising, after they were pressured by liberal groups like the NAACP to punish Facebook over its failure to censor “hate speech.” This may have been the last straw for many conservatives, who know the label “hate speech” is applied broadly against them for noncontroversial statements.

Parler is positioned to possibly take away users from both Facebook and Twitter, because it allows up to 1,000 characters per post. Twitter’s limit is 280, while Facebook is long-form friendly – so Parler is a potential happy medium for both.

Hundreds of conservatives have set up on Parler, but most still exist on Twitter. Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump and Lara Trump have Parler accounts, as do many Republican Congress members, and other conservative personalities. But the Big Kahuna, the American president, is still a holdout.

“It’s about time y’all joined me on @parler_app,” Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky tweeted on Wednesday. “What’s taking the rest of you so long?!”

“This platform gets what free speech is all about, and I’m excited to be a part of it,” said Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. “Let’s speak. Let’s speak freely. And let’s end the Silicon Valley censorship.”

“Join us on @parler_app at @Jim_Jordan!” tweeted the conservative Congressman from Ohio. “They don’t censor or shadow ban.”

On Friday Parler was the top downloaded app in the News category in the iPhone store, outperforming Twitter and Reddit, according to CNBC. It out-downloaded Twitter again on Monday.

Will there be enough “Start Parler” activists to motivate a “Quit Twitter” campaign? It increasingly looks like a possibility.