After being locked out of his Twitter and Instagram accounts for anti-semitic posts, Monday’s announcement Kanye West will buy the far-right social platform Parler for an undisclosed amount drove headlines. But the platform once celebrated by right-wing figures as the future of “free speech” online has quietly devolved into a social media graveyard haunted by extremists and very few others, including Kanye himself.
The rapper-turned-MAGA-hero, who now goes by Ye, was not a user of the platform he aims to purchase until Monday and has never posted on the app. As of press time, the music icon had just 10,000 followers on the platform — a tiny sliver of the 31 million followers he has amassed on Twitter.
The lack of followers isn’t, obviously, indicative of Ye’s popularity. But it is of the popularity — or lack thereof — of the platform he has just agreed to acquire.
“It’s dead,” one Republican activist involved with digital advertising underscored to me by phone when I asked what he thought of the platform. “And when I say it is dead, it is f–king dead.”
Comscore data analyzed by The Righting shows Parler attracted just 137,000 unique visitors in August, a dramatic plunge from the 12.3 million it saw in January 2021, when the platform was used to plan the January 6 attack on the Capitol. (By comparison Twitter, also a small social platform compared to giants like Meta, has more than 237 million daily active users.)
In truth, West did not even agree to purchase a “conservative social media platform,” as many headlines in the press would have led readers to believe. What he agreed to purchase is a platform with an embarrassingly small user base comprised of far-right extremists and racists.
“No one goes there for a dialogue on conservative ideas,” CNN national security analyst Juliette Kayyem pointed out on-air Monday. “They go there to find equally-minded hate.”
“The right headline is that Kanye West bought a platform that is best known for planning and executing the attack on the US Capitol,” added Michael Hayden, a spokesperson for the Southern Poverty Law Center, a non-profit organization that monitors extremist groups. “That is what Parler is best known for.”
Jonathan Greenblatt, the head of the Anti-Defamation League, stressed to me that it is “key for people to understand that Ye did not just purchase some benign, alternative social media website where conservative views are debated and discussed, and free speech rules the day.” Greenblatt described Parler as “a safe haven for extremists, antisemites and white supremacists,” pointing to users associated with the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, and Three Percenters.
Following the announcement of Ye’s intent to purchase the platform, its leadership, which has struggled with security and user privacy, sent an email to its most prominent users, heralding the deal. But the execs who sent the email forgot to list the recipients as BCCs, exposing the private email addresses of many prominent right-wing figures, including Ivanka Trump, Dan Scavino, Rep. Elise Stefanik, and others.
“Hi everyone!” one VIP wrote in a reply-all. “It’s a pleasure being doxxed with such a fine crew.”
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