“Free speech social media platform” Parler, which was yanked offline following riots at the US Capitol building in January, has returned online.
The site had been exploding in popularity, claiming to have reached 20 million users and seen as a haven among further-to-the-right conservative posters who felt they were being censored by sites like Facebook and Twitter, before web services giant Amazon took away the site’s servers.
Since then it’s ousted its founding CEO John Matze and replaced him with a seasoned conservative political operator as it seeks to return to the web, drawing on support from a cybersecurity company with links to Russian intelligence and a Seattle business that has previously supported neo-Nazi groups.
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The installation of Tea Party Patriots co-founder Mark Meckler as interim CEO could push the platform even further to the right.
Former CEO John Matze didn’t necessarily intend for the site to be a hub for right wing conservatives and had previously sought to balance ideologies on the site, even offering “bounties” in an effort to attract “liberal” pundits.
Mr Matze’s Parler may not be the same as the one that officially announced its relaunch on Monday, but in a statement the company did say it is open to “all viewpoints”.
Given the punishment doled out to Parler by Amazon – as well as Apple and Google, who removed its app from their stores – the new Parler is “built on sustainable, independent technology and not reliant on so-called ‘big tech’ for its operations”.
The relaunch is intended to allow its existing users back on the site immediately, with new users able to sign up from next week.
In a statement, Mr Meckler said: “We’re thrilled to welcome everyone back.
“Parler was built to offer a social media platform that protects free speech and values privacy and civil discourse.
“When Parler was taken offline in January by those who desire to silence tens of millions … our team came together, determined to keep our promise to our highly engaged community that we would return stronger than ever,” Mr Meckler said.
The release did not say who the new host is that will be providing the “sustainable, independent technology” to keep the site online.
The New York Times has reported an Ohio firm called CloudRoute is selling technology to Los Angeles company SkySilk, that is providing hosting services to Parler.
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Previously, following its removal from Amazon’s servers, Parler had been relying on a Russian company called DDos-Guard to protect a simple page it put up to explain where the site had gone.
That raised concerns among internet experts over fears the Russian government could access the data or spy on Parler users.
Seattle company Epik provided support for domain registration. It has previously helped keep other controversial pages online, such as neo-Nazi site the Daily Stormer, social platform Gab, and messaging board 8chan (which is also known for attracting manifestos from mass shooters).
Parler warned users that “during the initial relaunch, you may not see all of your content. Rest assured, it is all archived and we’ll be rolling it back out in phases.”
Before Amazon removed the site from its servers, tens of terabytes of information from the site including photos and videos, as well as their associated metadata, was archived by an anonymous programmer going by the Twitter handle @donk_enby.
Some of that metadata was used to show Parler users deep within the Capitol building during the January 6 riots, while video from the site was also used during Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial, where he was ultimately acquitted after being accused of inciting the riot.