The overwhelming majority of news links shared on Parler in the days surrounding the Capitol insurrection last month were filled with misinformation, according to an analysis by NewsGuard and PeakMetrics.
One of the most popular sites shared across the social networking platform was a site that appeared to be an American news outlet, called American Conservatives Today, but which actually was run from North Macedonia and plagiarized stories from The Gateway Pundit. The site, which was created in December of last year, spread lies that the voting equipment maker Dominion Voting Systems was switching votes from then-President Donald Trump to then-candidate Joe Biden.
Other popular misinformation-based sites that spread falsehoods on Parler included a video website linked with Alex Jones, InfoWars.com’s founder, which spread lies that Biden was interested in using martial law to “steal” the 2020 presidential election and falsehoods about the coronavirus. Other popular sites linked to on Parler included content about QAnon conspiracy theories, as well as similar false claims about election fraud and COVID-19, according to NewsGuard and PeakMetrics.
“While the dataset used for this analysis was not exhaustive — it covered a relatively short time frame in early January — the findings suggest that Parler was a hotbed for misinformation publishers,” the research authors wrote in a blog post on the matter.
The analysis excluded links shortened through URL shorteners such as bit.ly as well as links that led to Facebook or Twitter.
U.S. lawmakers have begun questioning what role Parler had in fomenting the riots at the Capitol last month, as multiple tech titans including Apple, Google and Amazon have worked to shun the networking site over the violent content it spread. And while evidence has begun accumulating in the aftermath of the Capitol insurrection showing those who participated in the attack on the Capitol used Parler to coordinate the riot, the analysis from NewsGuard and PeakMetrics could crystallize just how much of the content shared on Parler more broadly contributed to the amplification of misinformation about the 2020 presidential election.
Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have been focusing on content moderation and misinformation issues that abound on Twitter and Facebook in recent years, but the authors of the analysis suggest Parler deserves more scrutiny.
“As mainstream platforms like Twitter and Facebook face regulatory pressure to reduce the spread of misinformation, misinformation sources may continue to shift to less controlled platforms like Parler,” the researchers state in the blog.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., has requested that the FBI investigate the role Parler played in stoking the insurrection and the financing behind Parler, and has raised questions about whether foreign governments like Russia were involved in backing Parler and civil unrest in the U.S., according to the letter Maloney sent to the FBI last month.
The House Committee on Oversight and Reform did not immediately return request for comment on the status of the request the FBI delve in deeper on Parler’s backing.
Although Parler has largely been offline for the past month, it reemerged online earlier this week, according to an announcement from the company, which claimed the platform would be working to cut down on content that incites violence.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has announced in recent days her aim to launch a 9/11 stye commission to investigate the “facts and causes” of the attack on the seat of government. The House Energy and Commerce Committee has also recently announced it will host a hearing on the role of media in the Capitol insurrection.
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