Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Parler, the "free speech" alternative to Twitter, keeps banning people

Illustration for article titled Parler, the free speech alternative to Twitter, keeps banning people
Photo: Jan Hakan Dahlstrom (Getty Images)

Last week, Sen. Ted Cruz encouraged his conservative followers to help “end the Silicon Valley censorship” by joining him on Parler, a “non-biased free speech driven entity” that really “gets what free speech is all about.” Parler began banning people almost immediately.

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“If you can say it on the street of New York, you can say it on Parler,” CEO John Matze told CNBC last week, just days before declaring that you can’t repeatedly say “fuck you” to people or threaten to kill them, two things that happen daily on the streets of New York City. Other stuff that can get you banned: Pornography, obscene usernames like “CumDumpster,” and “pictures of your fecal matter.”

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While this is all fine—it’s his site, he can ban whatever he wants—it undoubtedly undercuts the site’s reputation as a “free speech alternative to Twitter,” especially since Twitter allows much of what Parler doesn’t. (Matze says Parler’s regulations are in line with “Supreme Court precedents, the FCC, and the First Amendment,” a claim our colleagues at Gizmodo call “nonsensical.”)

It’s unclear which of these rules Devin Nunes’ Cow—a parody account that pretends to be a cow owned by Rep. Devin Nunes—broke in order to get banned. “Considering Nunes sued Twitter for bias against him, I assume he’ll now speak out against Parler too?” asked TechDirt’s Mike Masnick on Twitter.

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Matze’s rules, at least in part, seem to be in response to a handful of noted Twitter pranksters who adopted the names of prominent conservative voices as their handles, then pulled a bait-and-switch on gullible Parler users.

Stefan Heck of the Go Off Kings and Blocked Party podcast, for example, built a following pretending to be Parscale before changing his name to MrEatsHumanPoop and sharing poop-related content with many followers. (He’s also guilty of Parler’s “no ‘fuck you’ replies” rule.)

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“I was on there for about two days pretending to be Brad Parscale,” Heck explained to The A.V. Club in a Twitter DM. “Once I got enough people on board, I renamed myself MrEatsHumanPoop and lost about 300 followers within half an hour.” As the above tweets illustrate, he was eventually banned.

Other users enjoyed similar journeys. Twitter user @dogboner started an account under the name NYC Proudboys—a reference to the Proud Boys, a Southern Poverty Law Center-designated hate group—and, per their telling, got banned for repeatedly posting the diarrhea scene from Dumb and Dumber.

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YouTuber Chris James, meanwhile, scored thousands of followers pretending to be conservative radio host Dennis Prager before changing his name to “I love Socialism” and posting about needing “toilets that are actually strong.”

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With that out of his system, Heck won’t be returning to Parler. “It’s basically a conservative echo chamber for senior citizens who confuse ‘having reprehensible opinions that nobody wants to hear about’ with ‘getting shadowbanned,’” he told us. “The app itself is borderline unusable. At one point I tried to upload a picture three times in a row and each time it ended up crashing or freezing. Everyone who is on there for unironic reasons got the app they deserve: a barely functional wasteland full of racist powerboat salesmen who are too pig-headed to realize their kids hate them.”

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Absurd as it all is, the pranks serve as yet another demonstration of why logical and consistent moderation is necessary to the survival of any online forum, a reality sites like Twitter and Reddit are beginning to reckon with in a real way. Hopefully, the world’s best minds are able to figure it out without robbing social media of its lifeblood: Lots and lots of poop jokes.

Send Great Job, Internet tips to gji@theonion.com

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Randall Colburn is The A.V. Club's Internet Culture Editor. He lives in Chicago, occasionally writes plays, and was a talking head in Best Worst Movie, the documentary about Troll 2.

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Reid's a writer and editor who has appeared at GQ, Playboy, and Paste. He also co-created and writes for videogame sites Bullet Points Monthly and Digital Love Child.

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