Earlier this month West and friend Candace Owens wore ‘White Lives Matter’ T-shirts, causing a stir at Paris Fashion Week. She happens to be married to the CEO of Parlement Technologies, which owns Parler.

In this file photo, rapper Kanye West wears a Make America Great again hat during a meeting with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on Oct. 11, 2018.
In this file photo, rapper Kanye West wears a Make America Great again hat during a meeting with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on Oct. 11, 2018. (Evan Vucci / AP)

Social network Parler, known in the US left leaning circles for propagation of “bigotry equals free speech”, has announced that rapper and entrepreneur Kanye West has made an offer to buy it.

Kanye West has recently been locked out of Twitter and Instagram for violating their policies by making anti-Semitic posts.

The acquisition of Parler would give West, legally known as Ye, control of a social media platform and a new outlet for his opinions with no gatekeeper. The question is, who will listen?

Even among the new breed of largely right-wing, far-right and libertarian social apps that purport to support free speech by having looser rules and moderation, Parler’s user base is tiny — and with competition only increasing for the relatively small swath of mostly older people who want to discuss politics online, there is no clear roadmap to growing it beyond a niche platform chasing crumbs left by mainstream social media.

If Tesla CEO Elon Musk goes through with his planned purchase of Twitter, things may get even more complicated for Parler. That's because Musk has already made it clear he would like to loosen Twitter's rules and content-moderation efforts, including reinstating the account of former President Donald Trump. If the libertarian and far-right users who left Twitter — either because they felt it was constricting to their political views or because they were kicked off — return, sites like Parler, Gab and Trump's Truth Social could end up losing users.

Parlement Technologies, which owns Parler, and West said Monday the acquisition should be completed in the fourth quarter, but the price and other details were not disclosed. Parlement Technologies said the agreement includes the use of private cloud services via Parlement’s private cloud and data center infrastructure.

Parler restructured its business last month to form Parlement Technologies, which it said aims to become the “world’s premier free speech technology infrastructure and platform."

This means that rather than running a single platform such as Parler, the company wants to provide services to other niche sites that are often deemed too extreme for mainstream tech companies to support. A Parlement spokesperson said the deal with West was not yet in the works when the company was restructured and the two transactions are separate.

Ye was blocked from posting on Twitter and Instagram a week ago over antisemitic posts that the social networks said violated their policies. In one post on Twitter, Ye said he would soon go “death con 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE,” according to internet archive records, making an apparent reference to the US defence readiness condition scale known as DEFCON.

Ye has also suggested slavery was a choice and called the Covid-19 vaccine the “mark of the beast.” Earlier this month, he was criticized for wearing a “White Lives Matter” T-shirt to his collection at Paris Fashion Week.

Candace Owens, in addition to being an conservative influencer married to Parlement Technologies CEO George Farmer, was the woman who appeared alongside West with a matching “White Lives Matter'' T-shirt, a stunt that raised a lot of eyebrows.

“In a world where conservative opinions are considered to be controversial we have to make sure we have the right to freely express ourselves,” Ye said in a prepared statement.

Parler has struggled amid competition from other conservative-friendly platforms like Truth Social, which are tiny as well compared with mainstream social media sites. Parler had an average of 725,000 monthly active users in the US. for the first half of this year, according to Data.ai, which tracks mobile app usage. That's down from 5.2 million in the first half of 2021. Overall, including people outside the US, Parler still failed to reach the 1 million mark in the first half of this year.

Truth Social, meanwhile, had 2.4 million monthly users during the same period, despite launching just in February and only on Apple devices, according to Data.ai. The market research firm said another right-leaning platform, Gettr, which launched in July 2021, is ahead of both Parler and Truth Social with about 3.8 million monthly active users.

None of them come close to Twitter, which reported that it had a daily average of about 237.8 million active users during its most recent quarter. Many of the right-wing platforms emerged from opposition to the content-moderation restrictions at mainstream services such as Twitter and Facebook, but they have failed to attract users in large numbers.

Part of that reason may be that most people don't actually want to discuss politics online. According to the Pew Research Center, one-third of tweets sent in the U.S. are political in nature, but these are mainly sent by a small subset of mostly older people. While Americans ages 50 and older make up 24% of the US adult Twitter population, they produce nearly 80% of all political tweets, according to Pew. This is the audience Ye's Parler would have to be courting if the rapper is serious about growing Parler's user base.

Parler launched in August 2018 but it didn’t start picking up steam until 2020.

It was kicked offline in January 2021 over its ties to the deadly insurrection at the US Capitol earlier that month. A month after the attack, Parler announced a relaunch.

Last month, Google allowed Parler back into its Play Store, more than a year after banning the platform.

Competitor Truth Social –– which Trump launched after being barred from Twitter over the Capitol –– was also allowed on the Google Play Store this month, weeks before the crucial midterm elections.

“This deal will change the world, and change the way the world thinks about free speech," Parlement Technologies CEO George Farmer said in a prepared statement.

Meanwhile, Tesla chief Elon Musk tweeted a cartoon picturing him and West combining their respective social media companies' forces, with a caption of "Wait for it" as well as "Fun times ahead."

Musk is proceeding with his $44 billion deal to buy Twitter after trying to back out of the contract, but it has yet to close.

Former US president Donald Trump, himself permanently banned from Twitter for tweets deemed to be inciting violence, has already spoken with West about his Parler purchase and the two plan to have dinner, according to news site Politico.

Parler, which describes itself as "a guiding force in the fight against Big Tech, Big Government, censorship, and cancel culture," announced in September that it was restructuring to focus on users who risk being ousted from the internet.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies