Ye West may be making waves as the new owner of controversial conservative social media company Parler. But even though the platform touts it represents different viewpoints, it's unlikely it will make a lasting difference in the world of social media.
"Parler plays a polarizing role in the social media industry," said Bill Ottman, CEO of blockchain-based social media company Minds. "They are not doing anything significantly differently than the big tech platforms they seem to oppose. Much like Twitter and Facebook, Parler is a fully closed-source project that lacks transparency and accountability, making it susceptible to the very same issues that people are having with big tech companies today."
Parler owner Parlement Technologies announced on Monday that Ye, who formerly went by Kanye, was purchasing the platform for an undisclosed amount. The deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2022. The company recently completed a $16 million fundraising round, and has raised about $56 million per Reuters.
West had recently been banned on Instagram and Twitter for his anti-Semetic comments and has had a history of disturbing viewpoints he shared through social media.
"In a world where conservative opinions are considered to be controversial we have to make sure we have the right to freely express ourselves," Ye said in a statement.
Parler initially gained notoriety after becoming a social media home base for supporters of President Donald Trump and other alt-right viewpoints.
The publicity led Parler to be the most well-known of the alternative social media apps. A recent Pew Research Center survey found 38 percent had heard of it, ahead of the Trump-owned Truth Social. But only 1 percent said they got actual news from Parler. Parler averaged 983,000 monthly active users for the first half of this year, according to data given to the Associated Press from Data.ai. For comparison, Twitter had 237.8 million monetizable daily active users according to its last earnings report in July.
In addition, it's unlikely the unfettered and dangerous viewpoints will be allowed to remain. The app has been removed from both the Apple App Store and Google Play Store for policy violations over content, especially when it was linked to organizational efforts for the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riots.
"Parler has made some changes to its content moderation practices since January 6th in order to be allowed back on the Apple and Google app stores," industry group Chamber of Progress spokesperson Chris MacKenzie said. "It's unclear if Ye will undo those content moderation changes to allow for more extreme content. All social media platforms have continued to work to crack down on hate speech, misinformation, and harmful content online."
But while Parler has touted itself as a protector of the First Amendment, its community guidelines state it would remove users and content that are "used as a tool for crime, civil torts, or other unlawful acts." Trump had been in talks to use the app as his main form of social media but balked after it refused to block anyone critical of him, according to Business Insider.
"Ye will likely end up being frustrated that the app can't scale or truly protect his speech because they are reliant on proprietary third-parties for numerous functions," Mind's Ottman said. "We already witnessed this when they were banned by AWS and went offline. He should explore open source and decentralized social media protocols that can actually bring user sovereignty and truly protect freedom of speech."