- 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)
Major Chinese Company on Verge of Collapse Could Create Economic Trouble in U.S.
The company, Evergrande, accumulated $305 billion in debt through a business model that some have deemed “the biggest pyramid scheme [in] the world.”
Evergrande Can’t Pay Back Loans
The Chinese real estate company Evergrande, the second-largest property developer in the country, will likely be unable to meet interest payments on $84 million in offshore bonds due this week.
That amount almost seems like chump change compared to the whopping $305 billion in debt it managed to accrue since its founding in 1996, but if Evergrande defaults on its payments and collapses, it could send shockwaves through Chinese markets and economies abroad.
At its height, Evergrande was a Fortune 500 company. In addition to real estate, it also owns a theme park, a line of electric cars, a mineral extraction group, and a soccer team; however, it has struggled to maintain its real estate business model over the last several years due to government crackdowns on how much companies can take out in loans.
Evergrande Struggling to Pay Its Debts
In the 2000s, Evergrande aggressively borrowed money from banks and other lenders to buy land from local governments that were eager to sell. As the value of land rose, it kept borrowing, ultimately driving up the price of land even more. Because of that, many discredited Evergrande’s business model as “the biggest pyramid scheme the world has yet seen.”
For years, the model did not stir up any major challenges from Chinese regulators, but in 2018, President Xi Jinping began emphasizing “financial risk” as a problem that the government needed to address. Two years later, regulators imposed a system known as “three red lines,” which was meant to curb unregulated borrowing.
Under the system, the more a company owes, the less it is allowed to borrow. Notably, Evergrande crossed all three of the “red lines,” so regulators barred it from borrowing any more money.
But Evergrande would need to generate some form of income if it wanted to stay afloat. Because of that, it pre-sold more than 1.4 million apartments it hadn’t yet finished building. In other words, Evergrande stopped borrowing from official lenders and essentially started borrowing from everyday homeowners, asking them to pay major deposits before their homes were completed. Perhaps unsurprisingly, some people have now waited years for their homes to be ready.
At one point, Evergrande even became so strapped for cash that it forced its own employees into a corner, telling them to provide the company with a short-term loan or lose their bonuses. That, in turn, led to some employees needing to take out loans through banks.
Similar to its inability to pay back banks, earlier this month, it stopped paying back the loans from its employees.
Amid Evergrande’s uncertainty, the company’s stock value has steadily fallen over the past year from around $4 last September to just 30 cents Tuesday.
Will This Lead to a Global Market Crisis?
There is currently no market crisis or collapse, only concerns that one could come.
While Evergrande’s inability to repay its lenders is unsettling enough for homeowners and the company’s employees, the effects of an Evergrande default could be much more far-reaching.
For one, if Evergrande defaults, banks and other firms will potentially be forced to lend less given the fact that the company owes large sums of money to around 300 institutions. If that happens, it could lead to a credit crunch, meaning companies would struggle to be able to borrow money at affordable rates. Some might be forced to close up shop for good.
On top of that, the property values of existing homes in China would likely diminish. Since homes are such a valuable asset, that would likely lead to a decrease in consumer spending.
With those two effects combined, other countries would almost undoubtedly feel the financial shock. On Monday, upon the continued news that Evergrande likely can’t pay lenders, the U.S.-based Dow Jones fell 900 points. While it has recovered somewhat, other major U.S. indices like the S&P 500 and the NASDAQ saw similar pullbacks.
Many have asked if China is about to face a “Lehman Brothers moment,” a reference to the events that caused the disastrous 2008 recession. For now, the answer is uncertain, but many analysts expect it won’t.
That’s because while a full-scale crisis isn’t off the table, many believe the Chinese government will step in to bail out Evergrande, which some have called “too big to fail.”
“Rather than risk disrupting supply chains and enraging homeowners, we think the government will probably find a way to ensure Evergrande’s core business survives,” Mattie Bekink, of the Economist Intelligence Unit, told the BBC.
Still, nothing is certain. It’s possible China could refuse to bail out Evergrande to avoid what could be seen as it setting a bad precedent as it tries to rein in corporate debt.
Chinese markets were closed Tuesday, but they will reopen Wednesday. No doubt, analysts will closely study how investors in the country react and whether or not that reaction could give the public a better idea about how the government might respond.
See what others are saying: (BBC) (The Washington Post) (Axios)
Philadelphia Will Pay $2M to Black Woman Beaten by Officers Whose Child Was Used in a Pro-Police Social Media Post
The post from the National Fraternal Order of Police claimed officers found the toddler “lost” and “barefoot,” but the mother’s lawyers said police ripped the child from her vehicle during an unjust stop and caused him to lose his hearing aids.
$2 Million Settlement
The city of Philadelphia has agreed to pay a $2 million settlement to 29-year-old Rickia Young, a Black woman who was pulled from her car and beaten by police officers last year while trying to navigate through protests spurred by the police killing of Walter Wallace Jr.
Along with the settlement, both an officer and a sergeant have been fired in connection to their treatment of Young that night. Another 14 members of the Philadelphia Police Department are awaiting disciplinary hearings that stem from an internal investigation into the incident.
The terminations and investigations have not satisfied Kevin Mincey, one of Young’s attorneys. He’s currently calling on District Attorney Lawrence Krasner to file criminal charges against those officers, saying, “If any citizen did something like this, there would be no question they will be charged with aggravated assault as a felony.”
As of Thursday morning, Kranser has not said whether he plans to pursue such charges.
Police Beating of Rickia Young
On Oct. 27, 2020, Young said she drove into West Philly to pick up her 16-year-old nephew because he lived near the epicenter of the protests that were happening that night.
On her way back home, she reportedly came across a group of protesters blocking the street while engaging in a standoff with police. The police allegedly ordered her to turn her car around, and according to her attorneys, she complied but paused at one point to avoid hitting protesters running past her car.
From there, Young’s attorneys claimed police surrounded her vehicle. They then allegedly broke her windows with batons before pulling her and her nephew out of the vehicle. According to multiple outlets, the officers began beating her, leaving her with swelling on her face and body, as well as a swollen trachea. A video of this incident later went viral online.
For hours, Young was separated from her toddler, who was removed from the car by police and lost his hearing aids at some point during the night, according to her attorneys. Even after getting her son back, for days, she was without her car.
Ultimately, neither young nor her nephew were cited.
Pro-Police Post Involving Young’s Son
Two days after the incident, the National Fraternal Order of Police, the country’s largest police labor union, posted an image to Facebook showing an officer holding a young, Black child.
“This child was lost during the violent riots in Philadelphia, wandering around barefoot in an area that was experiencing complete lawlessness,” The caption read. “The only thing this Philadelphia Police Officer cared about in that moment was protecting this child.”
“We are not your enemy. We are the Thin Blue Line. And WE ARE the only thing standing between Order and Anarchy.”
While claiming that she had been abused by police, Young would also go on to claim the “lost” child in the photo was that of her son.
“They’re attempting to erase what happened — police brutality — and turn it instead into police saviorism,” Riley Ross, one of Young’s attorneys said. “It’s another deep wound that they cut.”
After being informed of the background behind the photo, the National Fraternal Order of Police deleted the post with Young’s child.
Still, as Philly council member Isaiah Thomas asked in February, “Who knows how many people there are who’ve seen that original image, but never actually understood that parent was not involved in some type of looting situation as it was displayed unfortunately on social media?”
See what others are saying: (Philadelphia Inquirer) (USA Today) (ABC News)
TikTok Works To Block “Devious Lick” Trend That Has Kids Stealing School Equipment
Some schools have even threatened to pursue charges against those stealing or destroying school property.
What Is a Devious Lick?
TikTok is taking action against a new trend on the platform that involves users showing off what they consider impressive thefts they’ve pulled off, often at their own schools.
Users on the app refer to these thefts as “devious licks,” and some standout examples include kids stealing school projectors, street signs, microscopes, fire alarms, and pretty much anything you can imagine.
A lot of students also seem to particularly enjoy targeting school bathrooms, stealing paper towels or soap dispensers and even entire toilets or sinks, sometimes leaving bathrooms totally unusable.
School officials across the country are obviously unhappy with this trend since it’s leaving their schools destroyed and low on equipment that is expensive to repair or replace.
In fact, many have issued warnings calling for the behavior to stop. Along with threats of suspension, some schools have said they will make families pay for the cost of the damage their child creates. Others even said they would get law enforcement involved.
For instance, Aubrey Chancellor, executive director of communications at North East Independent School District in San Antonio Texas, told Fox News, “It’s important for students to understand what they see on social media is not always a good idea in reality.”
“The students involved face disciplinary action and are expected to pay restitution as well. If possible, charges may be filed as well.”
With the trend generating widespread concerns, TikTok issued a statement Wednesday saying, “We are removing this content and redirecting hashtags and search results to our Community Guidelines to discourage such behavior.”