Twitter has never been a money machine like
or Google. But Twitter has completely dominated the market it created for 280-character political commentary. Until now. Having chosen to use its power to advance a partisan agenda, the social media company seems to have attracted a formidable competitor—so formidable that other media outlets backing Twitter’s agenda are now taking aim at the upstart.
The upstart is called Parler, founded in 2018 and lately adding millions of users because it promises an open platform. According to Parler’s latest Community Guidelines, published last week:
Our goal is to provide all community members with a welcoming, nonpartisan Public Square. While the First Amendment does not apply to private companies such as Parler, our mission is to create a social platform in the spirit of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
We prefer that removing community members or member-provided content be kept to the absolute minimum. We prefer to leave decisions about what is seen and who is heard to each individual. In no case will Parler decide what will content be removed or filtered, or whose account will be removed, on the basis of the opinion expressed within the content at issue. Parler’s policies are, to use a well-known concept in First Amendment law, viewpoint-neutral.
Readers may have noticed that the First Amendment is not popular on the left these days, and in fact many media folk are now offended by the idea that a president such as
should be permitted to speak to the public without a filter applied by the media industry.
Tens of millions of voters are of course offended by the media industry. Therefore it’s no surprise that many of these voters are attracted to a platform promising to be bias-free. Will they now be discouraged by negative media industry coverage of Parler?
“Parler’s got a porn problem: Adult businesses target pro-Trump social network,” announces a headline in the Washington Post. At this hour it remains unclear whether the Post has more of a problem with pornography or with a site that allows the modern media obscenity of permitting users to agree with Mr. Trump.
The Post report suggests that Parler is softer on porn than Twitter:
Parler once banned all pornography but in recent months revised its terms of service to permit essentially anything that’s legal, making its policy close to Twitter’s, if slightly more permissive. Twitter, however, also has automated systems that prevent excessively rapid posting, as well as other spammy behavior, and employs human moderators to enforce its policies.
Parler, by contrast, outsources moderation to volunteers who judge potentially objectionable content after it has been flagged by other users. Its systems and policies have given wide latitude for images of adult nudity and sexual behavior, a Washington Post review in recent weeks found. A variety of pornography is easy to find on the site, using both search terms that are explicitly pornographic and others that are not.
It’s not shocking that a service committing itself to the First Amendment would allow many posts that many people find offensive. Perhaps still another competitor will emerge providing an open political dialogue and no pornography. But what most consumers will likely find shocking—and laughable—is any suggestion that Silicon Valley giants like Twitter have been serving as some sort of bulwark against pornography.
Responding in the Washington Times to the Post story, Parler’s Jeffrey Wernick notes the steps his company has taken to allow users to avoid pornography, and also reports that he was able to quickly find large volumes of it on Twitter.
Consumers can decide for themselves whether they like Parler, and most of them probably already understand the Post’s true objection.
As for Twitter, many parents across America probably wish the social-media company had been as diligent in blocking porn this year as it was in preventing the New York Post from sharing its reporting on the Biden family influence business.
Mr. Freeman is the co-author of “The Cost: Trump, China and American Revival.”
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