Social media app Parler receives financial backing from conservative hedge-fund investor Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah, The Wall Street Journal reported. The app, founded as an alternative to Twitter and Facebook which bills itself as “viewpoint neutral” saw nearly 1 million new downloads in the days after the US presidential election, rocketing it to the top of the iOS and Google Play app stores.
Parler turned into a kind of de facto home for conservatives’ protests against the election— including the persistent “Stop the Steal” campaign— after the race was called for former Vice President Joe Biden. Several high-profile conservative social media personalities encouraged people to abandon Twitter and Facebook because of their moderation policies, and instead follow them on Parler.
According to the WSJ, the Mercers, known for giving financial support to conservative causes and organizations, including Cambridge Analytica, have not previously revealed their connection to Parler.
In a “parley” (what Parler calls its posts) on Saturday, a user with the handle Rebekah Mercer and a yellow “verified” badge said she and “John,” an apparent reference to Parler CEO John Matze, “started Parler to provide a neutral platform for free speech as our founders intended,” and that “the ever increasing tyranny and hubris of our tech overlords lead the fight against data mining” and online free speech.
Matze replied: “Bekah is a great friend, an American patriot,” and said he was grateful for her support.
Parler did not return a request for comment Saturday. On its website, the Nevada-based company says it “is the solution to problems that have surfaced in recent years due to changes in Big Tech policy influenced by various special-interest groups.” As the Wall Street Journal notes, Parler doesn’t use the content recommendation algorithms that other social platforms do, algorithms which determine what content users ultimately see based on their behavior. Instead, Parler shows users all posts from other users they follow.
A longstanding gripe among conservatives on social media is that Twitter and Facebook’s algorithms discriminate against them, “shadowbanning” their content. So far, there’s been no conclusive evidence of such behavior.
The Cambridge Analytica scandal
Update November 14th, 5:55PM ET: Adds “parley” comment from CEO John Matze