Parler’s parent company recently announced that Kanye West (who is legally known as Ye) plans to buy the alternative social media site. The move comes after Twitter and Instagram restricted West’s accounts in response to a series of antisemitic comments he made earlier this month.
Parler is one of several new options in the social media universe, many of which explicitly present themselves as alternatives to more established platforms, especially by opposing free speech restrictions they say are rife at other sites.
A recent Pew Research Center report looked at Parler and six other alternative social media sites (BitChute, Gab, Gettr, Rumble, Telegram and Truth Social) that have created small but generally satisfied communities of news consumers. Amid the news of West’s potential acquisition of Parler, here are facts about the platform, based on the recent study:
This study explores alternative social media sites as an emerging part of the news and information landscape using a multi-method approach. The seven sites studied are: BitChute, Gab, Gettr, Parler, Rumble, Telegram and Truth Social. Sites were included in the study if they had publicly accessible posts, were mentioned in news media, and had at least 500,000 unique visitors in December 2021.
The survey portion of this analysis was conducted May 16-22, 2022, among 10,188 U.S. adults. Everyone who completed the survey is a member of Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel (ATP), an online survey panel that is recruited through national, random sampling of residential addresses. This way nearly all U.S. adults have a chance of selection. The survey is weighted to be representative of the U.S. adult population by gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education and other categories. Read more about the ATP’s methodology here. Respondents were asked about their familiarity with each of seven social media sites: BitChute, Gab, Gettr, Parler, Rumble, Telegram and Truth Social. Those who reported having heard of these sites were also asked whether they use the sites and get news there, how they feel about them, and more.
The margin of sampling error for the full sample of 10,188 respondents is plus or minus 1.6 percentage points; the margin of sampling error for the 587 alternative social media news consumers is plus or minus 7.0 percentage points; and the margin of sampling error for the 131 Parler news consumers is plus or minus 13.7 percentage points.
The audit of alternative social media sites was initially conducted in April 2022. To conduct the analysis, a team of researchers were trained on a set of variables that examined features of each site like its privacy and moderation policies. Researchers reexamined each site in August-September 2022 (Parler was also rechecked in October 2022) and updated findings with any changes.
The account content analysis examines a sample of 200 prominent accounts on each of the seven sites included in this analysis, for a total of 1,400 examined accounts. Prominent accounts were sampled from the 5% of accounts with the highest number of followers on each site. A team of trained researchers analyzed these 1,400 sampled accounts to determine who runs the account, their political orientation, values, and other characteristics. For more details on how accounts were identified and sampled, read the methodology.
The content analysis of posts examines the topics discussed and sources cited in 585,470 posts published in June 2022 by the 1,400 sampled accounts (only 1,147 of these accounts posted at least once that month). Researchers used a set of unique keywords to identify posts about five distinct topics – abortion; guns, gun control and shootings; the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol; LGBTQ issues; and vaccines. Researchers looked at unique two- and three-word phrases that were commonly used in posts on each topic. Researchers then examined the unique domains linked to in these posts to identify the types of sources these accounts were using.
This is the latest report in Pew Research Center’s ongoing investigation of the state of news, information and journalism in the digital age, a research program funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts, with generous support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
- Parler is the best known of the seven alternative social media sites asked about in the Center’s recent survey, with 38% of U.S. adults saying they have heard of it. That said, only 1% of Americans say they regularly get news on Parler. Overall, just 6% of Americans regularly get news from at least one of the seven sites studied, and no single site is used for news by more than 2% of U.S. adults.
- In its “about” section and terms of service, Parler explicitly identifies itself as supporting free speech. Parler also describes itself as an alternative to Big Tech and says it is opposed to censorship.
- A review of the site’s moderation features found that Parler moderates user content at least to some extent (beyond spam and legal requirements). Parler’s app was removed from the Google and Apple app stores after the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol because organizers reportedly used the app to help plan the event. The app was returned to each store only after adding moderation features requested by Google and Apple.
- Among regular news consumers on Parler, 69% say they expect the news and information there to be mostly accurate, while 30% expect it to be mostly inaccurate.
- Among those who regularly get news on Parler, 66% say news on Parler helped them better understand current events, while 12% say news there made them more confused about current events. The remainder say the news there doesn’t make much of a difference.
- About half (52%) of those who regularly get news on Parler say they are very or somewhat satisfied with the experience of getting news there, while 27% are very or somewhat dissatisfied and the rest give a neutral assessment.
- Among those who regularly get news on Parler, 61% say discussions they see on the site are mostly friendly, while 16% say they see mostly unfriendly discussions and 20% say they see about an equal mix of friendly and unfriendly discussions.
- Among those who regularly get news on Parler, 55% say they interact with news posts at least sometimes, and 38% say they post about news themselves at least sometimes on the site.
- In a review of a sample of the 200 most prominent accounts on Parler (selected from those with the highest number of followers), 86% of prominent accounts are individuals and 9% are organizations.
- When it comes to what values or other appeals these 200 prominent accounts have in their profiles, 68% have a reference to some kind of value or political orientation or identity appeal. A little under half (44%) have a reference to being right-leaning or pro-Trump, 23% have a reference to patriotism or a pro-America message, and 19% express a religious identity.
- What do people on Parler talk about? A review of posts from these 200 prominent accounts from June 2022 found that 64% of accounts posted about guns and gun rights, 54% posted about the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, 54% posted about abortion, 46% posted about LGBTQ issues and 38% posted about vaccines.
- About one-in-ten prominent accounts on Parler (12%) had their account on another social media site banned or demonetized (i.e., their access to revenue-sharing partnerships like advertising was revoked). This is lower than the share on BitChute (35%) and Rumble (22%) but comparable to the share on Gettr (13%), Gab and Telegram (12% each).
- Parler has several revenue streams. The platform is exploring crypto as a revenue source through a non-fungible token (NFT) marketplace it hosts called DeepRedSky, which features NFTs from Parler itself, as well as partners like The Babylon Bee. Parler also generates revenue through merchandise.
- Overall, about two-thirds of those who regularly get news from at least one of the seven alternative social media sites (66%) identify as Republicans or lean toward the Republican Party. This is far higher than the share who identify as Democrats or lean Democratic (33%). In comparison, those who get news on at least one of the three larger social media sites studied – Facebook, Twitter and YouTube – are more likely to be Democrats or Democratic-leaning than Republican.