Fearful that more crackdowns would soon follow, Trump supporters began to flock to Parler, a budding social network that bills itself as the free-speech, conservative-friendly alternative to Twitter.
Prominent Trump supporters joined the platform and urged their fans to follow, and the social media network surged on Apple’s App Store. Trash-talking Trump personality Dan Bongino took an ownership stake in Parler, and promoted it to his followers.
At the height of Parlermania, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), who was on the verge of losing an attempt to sue Twitter over a parody account, compared Twitter to dead social network Myspace amid the Parler exodus.
Only a few weeks later, though, Parler is drawing criticism from some of its ideological allies even as some of MAGA world’s biggest names lose interest in the platform. With slowing momentum and few liberals for Parler users to joust with, Parler faces the prospect of once again becoming a social media backwater even after being embraced by some of the right’s biggest names.
Parler didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Parler’s restrictive terms of service have taken fire from liberals mocking the site, who pointed out that the site’s unusual rules included requirements for users to pay for Parler’s legal fees if they were involved in a lawsuit against the site and a strange provision about how Parler would handle users’ Social Security numbers. Now conservatives have also started to criticize those same restrictions.
“Parler is not the free speech utopia that Trump allies hope for,” a Monday op-ed in the Washington Examiner warned.
As a part-owner in Parler, Bongino has also become its most vocal defender. Bongino, a former Secret Service agent, fumed at the Examiner op-ed as “INACCURATE.”
Mindy Robinson, a pro-Trump actress with more than 200,000 Twitter followers, has become an outspoken Parler critic, claiming the site is hardly the free-speech paradise it’s portrayed as. Robinson slammed Bongino, accusing him of shilling for the site because he had a stake in it.
“Parler is not only sketchy [as fuck] when it comes to their terms of service, but also practices worse and more flippant censorship than either Twitter or Facebook,” Robinson tweeted at Bongino. “You’re only peddling it because you’re making money from it.”
Bongino’s clout hasn’t been enough to silence Parler’s other critics on the right, either. Human Events editor-in-chief Will Chamberlain fretted to Politico that the rush to Parler would effectively wall off conservatives just months before an election.
“Twitter is interesting because there's so many people, prominent people, that can be influenced,” Chamberlain said. “Parler is not that.”
The site has also failed to catch on with some of Trump’s most prominent Twitter allies, many of whom initially praised Parler in its late June boom.
Trump superfan Bill Mitchell, who has amassed more than 580,000 Twitter followers on the strength of his outspoken devotion to the president, tweeted in late June that he was getting better engagement on Parler than he was on Twitter.
But, as of Friday, Mitchell hasn’t posted on Parler for nearly a week—while posting continuously on Twitter.
Parler has been a boon for conservative personalities who have already been banned from Twitter. Anti-Muslim activist and Republican congressional candidate Laura Loomer, for example, has more than 614,000 followers on Parler.
But for Trumpworld stars who haven’t yet been banned from Twitter, Parler may be struggling to distinguish itself as anything more than a place to stash an account—and the followers that come with it—in anticipation of an eventual Twitter ban.
Mitchell, for example, urged his fans to keep using Twitter and only use Parler if they lost their Twitter account.
“It's not perfect but that's where the big names are going,” Mitchell tweeted. “Keep your Twitter but use Parler as your backup if Twitter deletes you.”
Other conservative personalities who were part of the June exodus to Parler haven’t stuck around. Allie Beth Stuckey, who has nearly 300,000 Twitter followers and styles herself as the “Conservative Millennial,” tweeted in June about her Parler account. But Stuckey hasn’t stuck around—she last posted on Parler on July 4, even as she has posted dozens of times on Twitter since then.
Stuckey isn’t alone. Trump campaign senior adviser Jason Miller, for example, urged his followers to make Parler accounts in the late-June rush to the site. But Miller hasn’t posted on the site since June 1, even as he prolifically tweets and retweets every day on Twitter.
Parler is far from dead. As of Friday, it ranked in the top 10 in the Apple App Store in the News category. Nunes and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), two of its two most prominent supporters in Congress, still regularly post “parlays”—Parler’s equivalent of tweets.
And Parler could still land Trump himself—the kind of news that would launch the site into the stratosphere.
But there have already been some early signs that Trump’s campaign might not be eager to see the president make the jump to the site. Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale was reportedly considering a move to the platform, but Parscale’s handful of posts on Parler are mostly detailed complaints about its flaws. At one point, Parscale griped that Parler isn’t “contagious.”
“Being fair and balanced isn't enough,” Parscale wrote. “Be cool as well.”