Kanye West acquires Parler, an alternative social media platform favored by many conservatives.
Parler’s parent company announced the deal Monday morning, saying West has made a “pioneering stride in media freedom of expression and will never have to fear being removed from social media again.”
The acquisition comes after West, who legally changed his name to Ye, temporarily shut down his account via Twitter this month over an anti-Semitic tweet.
The exact terms of the Parler deal were not revealed, though Parler said it still has to enter into a definitive agreement with West and expects it to expire in the fourth quarter. Parlement Technologies, Parler’s mother, will continue to be involved by providing technical services and cloud support.
The Parler West purchase could make it the latest celebrity to own a social media platform after former President Donald Trump’s attempt to win over conservatives with the proposed acquisition of Truth Social and Tesla CEO Elon Musk on Twitter. It also highlights how a small group of wealthy men, some of whom have been banned or suspended due to inflammatory statements, have owned social media platforms in an effort to promote what they call “freedom of expression”.
“In a world where conservative views are controversial, we have to make sure we have the right to express ourselves freely,” West said in a statement released by Parler.
As part of the announcement, Parler was linked to West’s account on the platform, which appears to have been launched simultaneously. As of early Monday, the account had nearly 500 followers.
For Ye, the deal comes during an especially controversial period. West has made headlines in recent weeks for wearing a “White Lives Matter” T-shirt in public and defending his use of the logo – a phrase the Anti-Defamation League has linked to white supremacist groups – as “funny” for Fox News host Tucker Carlson. After the jersey incident, apparel company Adidas said this month that it was reviewing its partnership with West. In September, West also said he’s ditching a two-year partnership with apparel retailer Gap.
Speaking on CNN on Monday, ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt called Parler a “haven” for hate.
Parler was founded in 2018 and saw rapid growth in the 2020 election. Describing itself as an airy haven for free expression, the app has become popular with conservative politicians and media personalities, peaking at 2.9 million daily users, according to market research firm Apptopia. But since then, its fortunes have waned, with Parler’s estimated daily users dropping to just 40,000, Apptopia told CNN on Monday. (For comparison, Twitter has over 237 million daily active users.)
In the weeks following the January 6 riots, Parler was removed from both the Apple App Store and Google Play Store over what the companies said failed to adequately mitigate violent rhetoric on the platform. Documents submitted to the House committee investigating the Capitol riots showed how the Secret Service was aware of the posts on Parler indicating possible violence that day. Separately, Parler wrote to Congress claiming that lawmakers’ interest in the app’s role in the riots was intended to “scapegoat” the app.
Parler has since been restored to both app stores after making changes to content moderation practices.
Parler has faced more competition in recent months as the burgeoning right-wing digital media ecosystem has expanded. Truth Social launched in February on the Apple App Store, and was approved for launch on the Google Play Store on October 13. Truth Social saw a spike in downloads last week due to its appearance on the Google Play Store, Apptopia said, and before that it was hovering. At 144,000 daily active users.
Musk’s move to buy Twitter, should the deal go through, also has the potential to upend Parler and similar services. Musk has repeatedly called for permanent unblocking and a rethink of Twitter’s way of moderating content, which could make the much larger platform home to some users who have jumped on to small services like Parler.
It could also mean that Musk and Ye, who are said to be friends, are now competing with each other. After Yi’s anti-Semitic tweet sparked a cry, Mask chirp: “I spoke to you today and expressed my concerns about his last tweet, which I believe he took very seriously.”
One week later, Yi’s deal to buy Parler was announced.
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