Conservatives flocked to Parler to “speak freely” after the election. A month later, the platform has stalled as fewer people are actively using it.
Hundreds of prominent conservatives created accounts on Parler to “speak freely" and express themselves “openly, without fear of being ‘deplatformed'”
Parler, a social media company that declares itself “the world’s premier free speech platform,” has attracted millions of users (including some prominent conservatives) supposedly seeking a more hands-off approach to content moderation. Although many conservatives and other like-minded users claim they are switching to Parler to escape supposed social media censorship on Facebook and Twitter, their enthusiasm appears as insincere and opportunistic as their inaccurate claims of widespread ideological bias. In fact, some of the largest Parler accounts use the platform to repeat narratives they still post on other social media sites, and Parler’s growth and user activity have recently slowed down.
Media Matters identified 236 Parler accounts associated with prominent right-wing and far-right figures with substantial followings on other social media platforms. We also included those who have been publicly banned from other platforms. We found that in that list some of Parler’s biggest right-wing accounts have earned more followers on Parler than on Facebook or Twitter, and they use Parler as another platform to spread narratives being posted elsewhere.
Key findings include:
- Since December 2018, at least 236 accounts have been created for prominent conservatives, right-wing media personalities, and far-right figures. Over 60% of right-wing accounts on Parler -- 149 out of 236 -- are verified by or affiliated/partnered with Parler.
- There are at least 17 right-wing Parler accounts that are verified and have over 1 million followers. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has the most followers, roughly 4.8 million, even though he created his account just six months ago. Fox News hosts Sean Hannity and Mark Levin also have large followings, with over 4 million followers each.
- Right-wing Parler accounts have earned millions of followers, and some of Parler’s biggest right-wing accounts have earned more followers on Parler than on Facebook or Twitter. There are six accounts that have over 100,000 more followers on Parler than on either Facebook or Twitter, including accounts of Cruz, Levin, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo, Sinclair Broadcast Group’s Sharyl Attkisson, and former Fox Business host Trish Regan.
- However, many right-wing Parler accounts with the most followers use Parler as another platform to spread narratives being posted elsewhere. Cruz barely posts on Parler, but his posts, known as parlays, often have the same content as his tweets, while Levin and Bartiromo post nearly all of their content to both Parler and Twitter.
Conservatives flocked to Parler amid claims that Facebook and Twitter are censoring them
For years, right-wing media and conservative politicians have made unsubstantiated claims that social media platforms, particularly Facebook and Twitter, are biased against them and censor their content. As Media Matters and others have demonstrated again and again, no such bias or censorship exists. In fact, Media Matters’ latest nine-month study of Facebook pages that regularly post about American political news found that right-leaning pages consistently earned more average weekly interactions than left-leaning pages.
Parler -- founded by John Matze, Jared Thomson, and conservative donor Rebekah Mercer -- has reportedly attracted 8 million users since it was launched in August 2018. The platform describes itself as “unbiased social media” and a place where people can “speak freely ... without fear of being ‘deplatformed.’”
Since launching in August 2018, Parler has experienced several periods of significant growth, with the platform gaining tens of thousands to millions of new users at a time when conservatives explicitly promoted it or attacked other platforms as biased. In December 2018, over 40,000 new users created accounts on Parler when right-wing figure Candace Owens declared herself to be “the first conservative” to join “the new Twitter.” The platform also experienced significant growth in June and November this year, when Facebook and Twitter updated policies related to violence, conspiracy theories, and misinformation, and subsequently flagged content and banned accounts for violating these policies.
At its peak in mid- to late November, Parler had roughly 2.9 million daily active users and its app was downloaded nearly 340,000 times on a single day. However, Parler’s growth and activity has since slowed. CNN Business reported that daily downloads of the app dropped to nearly 20,000 on December 7 and daily active users dropped to 2.3 million.
Despite this decline in growth and activity, prominent conservatives and far-right figures now have accounts on the platform where they can promote misinformation and misleading narratives to millions of users under the guise of “free speech.”
Media Matters has identified at least 236 right-wing accounts on Parler
Since December 2018, at least 236 accounts have been created for prominent conservatives, right-wing media personalities, and far-right figures on the platform. Over 60% of those accounts -- 149 out of 236 -- are verified by, or affiliated/partnered with Parler. These accounts are growing quickly, with some of the biggest accounts having millions of followers.
Far-right figures who have been banned by other Facebook and/or Twitter use Parler to promote their narratives. As just one example, Laura Loomer, who has been banned from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Medium, PayPal, Venmo, GoFundMe, Uber, and Lyft, has all designations on Parler -- verified influencer, verified real member, Parler affiliate, Parler partner, and early parlay-er. Parler’s other affiliates and/or partners include right-wing media outlets Daily Caller and NewsBusters, right-wing figure David Harris Jr., Fox News host Mark Levin, anti-Muslim blogger Pamela Geller, as well as anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ blogger Elizabeth Johnston.
Right-wing accounts on Parler have earned millions of followers and some of these biggest accounts have earned more followers on Parler than on Facebook or Twitter -- even though in most cases they aren’t posting unique content on this platform compared to their other social media accounts. At time of publication, Ted Cruz and Sean Hannity have the biggest accounts with 4.8 and 4.4 million followers, respectively, despite only creating these accounts roughly six months ago in June 2020.
There are at least 17 right-wing Parler accounts that are verified and have over 1 million followers:
- Ted Cruz gained 4.8 million followers since creating the account June 3, 2020.
- Sean Hannity gained 4.4 million followers since creating the account June 24, 2020.
- Mark Levin gained 4.1 million followers since creating the account May 31, 2019.
- Tucker Carlson gained 2.9 million followers since creating the account December 10, 2018.
- Devin Nunes gained 2.4 million followers since creating the account February 4, 2020.
- Conservative author Dinesh D'Souza gained 2.4 million followers since creating the account December 11, 2018.
- Team Trump gained 2.5 million followers since creating the account December 9, 2018.
- Fox News contributor Dan Bongino gained 2.3 million followers since creating the account December 8, 2018.
- Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson gained 2.2 million followers since creating the account June 30, 2020.
- President Donald Trump’s son Eric Trump gained 1.7 million followers since creating the account May 27, 2020.
- Maria Bartiromo gained 1.7 million followers since creating the account June 25, 2020.
- Newsmax hosts Diamond and Silk gained 1.6 million followers since creating the account September 3, 2020.
- White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany gained 1.3 million followers since creating the account June 25, 2020.
- Candace Owens gained 1.3 million followers since creating the account December 6, 2018.
- Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Guiliani gained 1.2 million followers since creating the account May 7, 2019
- Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) gained 1.1 million followers since creating the account December 11, 2018.
- Trish Regan gained 1.1 million followers since creating the account July 6, 2020.
Some of the biggest accounts aren’t posting unique content on Parler
Media Matters analyzed posts from four right-wing accounts -- Cruz, Levin, Bartiromo, and Nunes -- that have over 1 million followers and significantly more followers on Parler than Facebook and Twitter. Posts, known as parlays, that were created between November 25 and December 2 by these right-wing figures were compared with their tweets posted during the same time period.
We found that with the exception of Nunes, who has been using Twitter to promote Parler, these right-wing figures mostly use Parler as another platform to spread the same narratives being posted elsewhere. Cruz barely posts on Parler, but his parlays often have the same content as his tweets, and Levin and Bartiromo post nearly all of their content on both Parler and Twitter.
Cruz has more followers on Parler than on any of his official or personal Facebook and Twitter accounts. He has 4.8 million followers since he created a Parler account on June 3. He has roughly 2.5 million fewer followers on his personal Facebook page and 540,000 fewer followers on his personal Twitter account.
Despite earning millions of followers in only six months, Cruz barely posts on Parler. Since June, he has posted only 90 parlays, but these have earned over 194 million views and over 1.6 million interactions (comments, echos, upvotes). About two-thirds of these parlays include links for content like Republican fundraising websites and right-wing media articles, and roughly a quarter of these posts are shares of Rep. Chip Roy’s (R-TX) parlays.
Between November 25 and December 2, Cruz posted on Parler only four times and tweeted at least 54 times from his official and personal Twitter accounts. These four parlays earned roughly 125,000 interactions. Cruz’s 54 tweets earned at least 690,000 interactions.
Each of the four parlays have a corresponding tweet with identical content:
Levin created an account on Parler on May 31, 2019, and has since gained 4.1 million followers, which is roughly 2.4 million more followers than he has on Facebook and roughly 1.2 million more than Twitter. In the last 18 months, Levin has posted roughly 3,100 parlays.
Between November 25 and December 2, Levin posted on Parler 107 times and 132 times on Twitter. These parlays earned over 2.3 million interactions, while Levin’s 132 tweets earned roughly 1.8 million interactions. Some of Levin’s additional tweets encourage users to create accounts on Parler.
Media Matters analyzed the contents of these 107 parlays and found that the content of nearly all of these parlay was also posted to Twitter. Here are a few examples:
Bartiromo created an account on Parler on September 14, gaining 1.7 million followers in only three months. The account has roughly 1.5 million more followers than on Bartiromo’s Facebook and roughly 720,000 more than her Twitter. Since September, Bartiromo has posted 332 times on Parler.
Between November 25 and December 2, Bartiromo posted 57 times on Parler and 41 times on Twitter. These 57 posts on Parler earned over 403,000 interactions, while Bartiromo’s 41 tweets earned roughly 129,000 interactions. Media Matters also found that roughly 60% of these parlays link to Fox News and Fox Business’ video websites and 65% have a corresponding tweet with identical content. Most of the parlays with content that aren’t cross-posted to Twitter contain links to right-wing articles.
Nunes created an account on Parler on February 4 and has over 2.4 million followers. The account has roughly 2.3 million more followers than his personal Facebook page and roughly 1.0 million more than his Twitter account.
Since February, Nunes has posted roughly 1,600 times on Parler. Between November 25 and December 2, Nunes posted 63 times on Parler, but did not tweet. In fact, Nunes has tweeted only 13 times in the six weeks since the presidential election. Nearly all of Nunes' tweets since the election have promoted Parler and/or Rumble, an alternative video platform that is attracting conservatives.
Media Matters created a list of prominent Republicans, conservatives, right-wing media personalities, and far-right figures with substantial followings on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, along with those who have been publicly banned from platforms. We identified 236 Parler accounts associated with these figures and gathered data on these accounts -- including the date the account was created, the number of posts (known as parlays), and number of followers -- as of December 18.
For each of the 236 Parler accounts, we identified Facebook pages and Twitter accounts affiliated with these same figures and gathered data on the number of followers and page likes for these pages and accounts up till December 18.
Media Matters then identified four large Parler accounts that have over 1 million followers and significantly more followers on Parler than Facebook and Twitter. These accounts are affiliated with Ted Cruz, Mark Levin, Maria Bartiromo, and Devin Nunes. We analyzed posts and interactions from the four Parler accounts that were posted by these right-wing figures during the one-week period between November 25 and December 2, by which point Parler’s growth and activity had supposedly peaked, and compared these parlays with tweets posted by these accounts during the same time period.