- Since the election, millions of people have been joining alternative social media platforms like Parler that have much more lax content regulations than traditional sites.
- Last week, Parler was the most downloaded app on both Android and Apple devices, and the company’s user base more than doubled from 4.5 million to 10 million.
- Rumble, a platform that bills itself as an alternative to YouTube, has also seen a massive bump in new users, a fact that the company’s CEO credited in large part to recent traffic from Parler.
- Numerous big-name conservative influencers have been pushing their followers to join these platforms, arguing that mainstream companies like Twitter and Facebook censor their content.
- Critics say that the alternative sites are allowing misinformation, conspiracies, and hateful content to flourish, effectively creating a dangerous echo chamber where people only hear what they want.
Parler Sees Huge Boom
Millions of conservative social media users have been flocking to alternative platforms in the weeks following the election amid allegations of censorship on traditional sites like Facebook and Twitter, which have been cracking down on election misinformation.
The most significant example is Parler, a social media company founded in 2018 that markets itself as a “free speech” and unbiased alternative to Twitter and Facebook. Unlike those platforms, Parler leaves most moderation decisions up to individual users.
While it does have guidelines barring criminal activity, terrorism, child pornography, copyright violations, and fraud, the regulation of that content is done by volunteers called “community jurors,” not the platform itself.
The site, which is financially backed by a number of prominent conservative donors, has largely attracted a base of Trump supporters and right-wing users, and in the weeks since the election, the number of users has grown exponentially.
In fact, according to data from Google and other analytics firms, Parler was the most-downloaded app on both Android and Apple devices for the majority of last week, prompting the platform’s user base to more than double from 4.5 million to 10 million in that same time.
Conservative Voices Encourage Migration
Notably, Parler’s chief operating officer and co-founder Jeffrey Wernick claimed that this growth was not to due to “any one person or group, but rather to Parler’s efforts to earn our community’s trust, both by protecting their privacy, and being transparent about the way in which their content is handled on our platform.”
However, at the same time, others pointed to the fact that a number of major conservative influencers have recently encouraged their followers to switch over the platform, including the Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo, who lashed out at Twitter after the company flagged an article she posted claiming Democrats were trying to steal the election.
“This is the same group who abused power in 2016,” she tweeted two days after the election. “I will be leaving soon and going to Parler. Please open an account on @parler right away.”
Conservative radio host Mark Levin also echoed that sentiment, and encouraged his 2.7 million Twitter followers to do the same.
“Hurry and follow me at Parler,” he tweeted. “I may not stay at Facebook or Twitter if they continue censoring me. And one day I’ll have left their platforms. Parler is a wonderful alternative and is growing, and we need you there ASAP. It believes in truly open speech.”
Rumble Sees Uptick in Users
Notably, the mass exodus to Parler has not just helped the platform itself grow, but other similar platforms as well.
For example, the video-sharing site Rumble, which bills itself as an alternative to YouTube, has also seen a major spike in new users, which the company’s Chief Executive Chris Pavlovski directly attributed to traffic from Parler.
“I can confirm for the 1st time ever, Parler is sending Rumble more referral traffic than Facebook/Twitter combined,” he tweeted. “Dependency on them is now a thing of the past Next up, Rumble will dethrone YouTube.”
Pavlovski also told The Washington Post that his company has seen a big uptick in users since Election Day and that he expects the company will end the month with 80 million unique users, which is up from 60 million in October and 40 million this summer.
Rumble has been around since 2013, much longer than Parler, but the fact that its base is expected to double from what it was this summer is still incredibly significant. Part of that big increase is also due to the fact that, like Parler, major conservative influencers have been encouraging their followers to go to Rumble.
Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Ca.), a major ally of President Donald Trump, has recently been pushing his supporters to use the site. Major creators have also said they will bring their content to the platform, including Charlie Kirk, the founder of conservative youth organization Turning Point USA, as well as conservative commentator and Parler investor Dan Bongino.
Also like Parler, Rumble has very lax moderation rules. While its terms of service prohibit videos that show the assembly of weapons as well as other obscene content like pornography, nudity, or child exploitation, the platform has taken a very hands-off approach when it comes to misinformation and false claims, even regarding the election and the coronavirus.
“We don’t get involved in scientific opinions; we don’t have the expertise to do that and we don’t want to do that,” Pavlovski told The Post.
Criticisms and Concerns
However, to that point, experts who study online misinformation have said that false claims that have been removed off other platforms are popping up on Parler. The same is true for some users that have been banned by other platforms, like far-right talk-show host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, as well as the far-right militia group The Proud Boys, among others.
Many experts say the fact that this kind of content is thriving on Parler is cause for alarm.
“What we’ve seen in the past with some of these other fringe or alternative social media sites is, if there’s no rules and if it’s really siloed, then what happens is it gets more and more extreme,” Shannon McGregor, a professor who studies social media at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, told NPR.
McGregor also specifically pointed to Gab, another alternative social network that has become well-known for hosting anti-Semitic and white nationalist content.
Even before the recent boom on Parler, critics have argued that the platform was a haven for posts that spread far-right extremism, anti-Semitism, and conspiracy theories. Now, many are worried that the rise of these alternative platforms will just create an echo chamber of people sharing that kind of content without any kind of fact-checking or warning system.
“When people see news they don’t like, they split off to start their own to confirm their bias. this splintering is dangerous — and it’s only beginning,” reporter J.D. Durkin explained on Twitter.
“I think it’s great there are more platforms in the media space than ever before — good people are earning paychecks doing what they love. what’s dangerous are the echo chambers created as a result and the toxicity against anything telling you what you don’t want to hear.”
While that is certainly an alarming possibility, especially when paired with the historical nature of these sites to slip into extremism, the big question that remains is will these platforms ever get big enough to really rival Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube?
While Parler now has 10 million users, that is still a fraction of Twitter’s 187 million daily users and Facebook’s nearly 2 billion.
Meanwhile, even the leading conservative voices that have encouraged people to switch over to Parler are still using Twitter and Facebook, including Bartiromo and Bongino, and many experts are skeptical that the conservatives with the biggest audiences will actually leave larger social media apps, even though they are telling their audiences too.
“All these people have accounts on Twitter because that’s where journalists are and that’s where the press is,” McGregor explained. “If they actually left Twitter, they would be less newsworthy.”
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (Forbes)
Kings of Leon Will Become One of the First Bands To Offer an Album as NFT
- The band Kings of Leon will release its new album Friday as a non-fungible token (NFT), making it among the first bands ever to release a full album in such a format.
- The album will also be released on Spotify and Apple Music on the same day in a more traditional format.
- In recent days, celebrities such as Grimes and Logan Paul have made headlines for multi-million dollar earnings from sales of digital art and video NFTs, which are increasingly becoming viewed as a new form of collectors’ items.
Kings of Leon to Release NFT Album
Kings of Leon will soon become one of the first bands in history to release an album as a non-fungible token (NFT).
While controversial, NFTs are gradually gaining prominence as a new form of collectors’ items, and the band’s new album, “When You See Yourself,” is no exception to that.
Once it launches on Friday, it will be available for purchase in NFT form for two weeks. After that, no more NFTs of the album will ever be made.
The exact same album will also be released on Spotify and Apple Music the same day. Unlike the NFTs, these versions of the album will still remain available to stream and purchase even after two weeks’ time.
So What Is an NFT?
There’s been a lot of confusion around NFTs in recent days, especially as more and more headlines tie major celebrities to them.
For example, Grimes recently sold $6 million worth of NFTs as digital art. Meanwhile, YouTuber Logan Paul first sold $5 million worth of NFTs last month before then raking in another $880,000 from NFT sales.
Think of it this way: Money is fungible, meaning if you trade $1 with a friend, both of you still have a dollar at the end of the day. Millions of other people across the country also own similar dollars that carry the exact same value (some even have millions of dollars each, and I’m very jealous).
However, something is non-fungible when it has a unique identity and can’t be replaced in a trade. For example, you buy a handmade ceramic bowl that your friend made in her art class. No one else in the world will have that exact same piece of art as long as you retain ownership.
NFTs work in a similar way, except they deal strictly with digital files. For example, Logan Paul’s NFT sales page is filled with clips of Pokemon card pulls. Despite those clips being readily available on YouTube to anyone with internet access, some of them have nonetheless sold for up to $20,000.
“Total mint of 3 NFTs for this moment,” the description for his NFTs reads. “This product represents digital ownership of the NFT video of this moment only. This does not represent ownership in a card, a physical asset or of the YouTube video.”
That’s where this gets tricky. Consumers are buying a “moment” but not actually the copyright of the video or even the card featured in it. As mentioned earlier, despite owning the digital file of that moment, pretty much anyone can find a way to access or view it, depending on what it is.
In that sense, NFTs aren’t quite like platforms such as OnlyFans where users pay to view hidden content.
“To put it in terms of physical art collecting: anyone can buy a Monet print. But only one person can own the original,” The Verge noted.
See what others are saying: (CNBC) (Rolling Stone) (The Guardian)
Epic Games Acquires “Fall Guys” Maker Tonic Games Group
- Epic Games said Tuesday that it acquired Tonic Games Group, the parent company behind “Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout.”
- Under this deal, “Fall Guys” will have the backing to improve and potentially add cross-play features that exist in other games Epic owns, like “Fortnite” and “Rocket League.”
- For now, nothing in the game has changed, though the companies said they plan to bring it to Nintendo Switch and Xbox in the future.
Epic Games Buys “Fall Guys” Maker
Epic Games announced Tuesday that it acquired the parent company behind the popular game “Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout.”
That company is Tonic Games Group, which owns Mediatonic Games.
Epic Games did not release information about how much it paid for the deal when confirming it on its website.
As many online have noted, the family-friendly game seems like a good match for Epic, which has already had massive success with “Fortnite.”
The deal also adds to Epic’s growing portfolio of content. It already has its game-making software– the Unreal Engine as well as its own storefront– the Epic Games Store. It also has previous acquisitions including the video chatting app, House Party, and Psyonix, the game developer behind “Rocket League.”
What This Means for “Fall Guys”
Mediatonic, for its part, expressed excitement about having the backing to improve “Fall Guys” and bring it to more players.
“Your gameplay isn’t changing and neither is our mission to bring Fall Guys to as many players as possible,” Mediatonic explained in a statement about the deal.
It also noted that the companies still plan to bring the game to Nintendo Switch and Xbox in the future.
For now, there’s been no word about whether “Fall Guys” will become free to play in the future, which Epic did with “Rocket League.”
Still, both companies have expressed interest in introducing cross-play and other features that “Fortnite” and “Rocket League” already have.
“Epic essentially becomes the equivalent of a digital theme park,” video game investor and start-up advisor Joost van Dreunen said in an interview with The Washington Post.
“It is developing a content portfolio that has an aesthetic consistency of bright, colorful, and fun online game play,” he added. “It stands to reason that large IP holders like Disney and others will want to explore releasing special events and activities.”
See what others are saying: (The Verge) (The Washington Post) (Variety)
6 Dr. Seuss Books Won’t Be Published Anymore Because of Racist Imagery
- Six Dr. Seuss books will no longer be published because they “portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong,” Dr. Seuss Enterprises announced Tuesday.
- The late author’s company said the decision was made last year after months of feedback from audiences, teachers, and other specialists in the academic field.
- However, many school districts and groups have moved away from Dr. Seuss for years because of racist stereotypes and insensitive imagery in some of his work.
Production of Six Offensive Books To End
Six Dr. Seuss books will stop being published because of racist and insensitive imagery, the business that preserves and protects the author’s legacy said Tuesday.
The list of books blocked from production are:
- “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street”
- “If I Ran the Zoo”
- “McElligot’s Pool”
- “On Beyond Zebra!”
- “Scrambled Eggs Super!”
- “The Cat’s Quizzer”
“These books portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong,” Dr. Seuss Enterprises wrote in its announcement letter. “Ceasing sales of these books is only part of our commitment and our broader plan to ensure Dr. Seuss Enterprises’s catalog represents and supports all communities and families.”
Examples of Offending Content
A 2019 study published in the journal “Research on Diversity in Youth Literature,” looked at 50 books by Dr. Seuss and found 43 out of the 45 characters of color have “characteristics aligning with the definition of Orientalism,” or the stereotypical, offensive portrayal of Asia. It added that the two “African” characters both have anti-Black characteristics.
The study even pointed to specific examples. “In (“The Cat’s Quizzer”), the Japanese character is referred to as ‘a Japanese,’ has a bright yellow face, and is standing on what appears to be Mt. Fuji,” the authors wrote.
It also pointed to “If I Ran the Zoo” as an example of Orientalism and White supremacy.
“The three (and only three) Asian characters who are not wearing conical hats are carrying a White male on their heads in ‘If I Ran the Zoo.’ The White male is not only on top of, and being carried by, these Asian characters, but he is also holding a gun, illustrating dominance,” the study authors wrote. “The text beneath the Asian characters describes them as ‘helpers who all wear their eyes at a slant’ from ‘countries no one can spell.'”
The study also argues that since the majority of human characters in Dr. Seuss’ books are White, his works center Whiteness and thus perpetuate White supremacy.
Academic Groups Move Away From Seuss
The company told the Associated Press that the decision was made last year after months of feedback from audiences, teachers, and other specialists in the academic field.
Still, it’s worth noting that it also comes a week after a school district in Virginia made headlines for allegedly banning books written by Dr. Seuss, whose real name is Theodor Seuss Geisel.
The district eventually clarified that it was not banning his books. Instead, it said it was discouraging the connection between Dr. Seuss and “Read Across America Day,” which falls on the author’s birthday: March 2.
The decision to move away from Dr. Seuss books is not actually an uncommon move. School districts across the country have been doing the same.
The National Education Association, which founded “Read Across America Day” and deliberately aligned it with Dr. Seuss’ birthday, is included in that shift.
According to AP News, it’s been deemphasizing Seuss for years now and encouraging a more diverse reading list for kids.
While many have applauded Dr. Seuss Enterprises’ decision, others noted that it will continue to publish more popular books that have received criticism, including “The Cat in the Hat.”
For now, the company said it’s “committed to listening and learning and will continue to review our entire portfolio.”