As far as controversial apps go, last year was a busy time for regulators, consumers and marketing departments. From the U.S. government threatening to ban viral video platform TikTok to security issues with Zoom, there was a lot to take in.
Some people were shocked to learn that Google had retired Google Play Music in favor of YouTube Music. The transition from one platform to the other didn’t sit well with most, and consumers opted to drop out altogether. Tap or click here for our guide to YouTube Music.
But some controversial apps spilled over into this year, most notably social media platform Parler being booted off all marketplaces. Founded in 2018, it quickly became a favorite among conservatives and activists as an “unbiased social media” without censorship. Well, Parler is back. Sort of.
It was down but not out
Parler received multiple warnings from Google that it needed to take a stronger stance against posts that incite violence. Ignoring the warnings, Parler was subsequently pulled from the Google Play Store and Apple’s App Store.
That set in motion a chain of events that led to the service effectively being shut down. Amazon Web Services, where the app was hosted, also pulled support for Parler. That seemingly ended it for good.
Parler sprung back into action this week through California-based SkySilk Cloud Services after shopping around for a new host. The small operation confirmed media reports that it was providing private cloud infrastructure and support services for Parler.
It’s not the same Parler
The service might be back, but it’s nowhere near the level it used to be.
In a statement, SkySilk CEO Kevin Matossian said that it “does not advocate nor condone hate, rather, it advocates the right to private judgment and rejects the role of being the judge, jury, and executioner.”
Here are three surprising facts about Parler being back online and how they shape the company for the future:
1. The original CEO’s removal
Parler CEO John Matze has been rather unceremoniously fired by the board, controlled by Rebekah Mercer. It is unclear which direction Mercer wants the platform to go. In a memo to employees, Matze said his vision was constantly met with resistance. He added that he “advocated for more product stability and what I believe is a more effective approach to content moderation.”
2. Parler doesn’t have an (official) app
Since the app has been banned from the Google Play Store and Apple App Store, it leaves the company virtually nowhere to go to reach mobile devices. The only option that it’s left with is a web-only version, for now.
But that hasn’t stopped Parler. By clicking the Android button on its website, the company explains how to side-load the app. Side-loading is the installation of third-party apps that have not been verified, sanctioned or checked by Google. The only way to get the iOS app is to jailbreak an iOS device.
3. Revamped community guidelines
Even though Matze was apparently removed for suggesting better content moderation, Parler has taken steps to update its Community Guidelines. The latest version is dated Feb. 14, 2021, to coincide with its relaunch.
Matossian said SkySilk has been reassured that Parler will “better monitor its platform.” But the guidelines also state that it won’t ban or block content from being posted.
“We prefer that removing users or user-provided content be kept to the absolute minimum. In no case will Parler decide what content will be removed or filtered, or whose account will be removed, on the basis of the opinion expressed within the content at issue,” the guidelines state.
Reading through parts where Parler’s policies are “viewpoint-neutral,” it seems highly likely that it will invoke Section 230 when faced with controversy.