Hatemail 2020-11-19: Parler is the New Far-Right 'It Girl' and Big Tech Struggles to Define Boundaries Post-Election

Newsletter and intel from the LaBac Hacker Collective

Over the summer we featured a site called Parler in our “Who hosts hate?” section of hatemail. Since then, Parler has seen tremendous growth in users. Far-right pundits such as Avi Yemini and Dinesh D'Souza have recently joined the platform, along with Don Jr. and Ivanka Trump., It is all but certain that President Donald Trump will eventually make his way there as well as he faces increasing scrutiny from Twitter over the false information in his tweets.

A funny quote from Parler’s 26-year-old founder, John Matze, in June: “If you can say it on the street of New York, you can say it on Parler.” But as Parler has grown, and as that growth is fueled by a self-selecting population of users who seek the ability to post hateful language, the platform has a clear challenge ahead of it — how will it balance such astronomical growth with the speech requirements necessary for it to be upheld as a mainstream platform?

Take Gab for instance, a similar platform heralded by the far-right as a Facebook replacement. As Gab’s policies continued to allow and promote hate speech, Apple and Google decisively decided not to allow the app to be distributed via their app stores; more or less a death sentence for any app-based business. To remain available on the “civil internet,” Parler will need to embrace a certain degree of hypocrisy and moderate content to some extent. Hilariously, this has already started to happen.

What Parler and Gab represent the ability of hateful behavior to thrive despite the hurdles and etiquettes of a civil online society. VICE points out that the platforms serve to keep an echo chamber alive whilst also exposing users to “other ideas, such as those promoted by militia and boogaloo communities, and be further radicalized.” This is dangerous. Rather than a true marketplace of ideas, what is being created is a series of differentiated and specialized sectors that are completely incompatible with each other in terms of rules, accessibility, and the type of behavior expected; what some call a splinternet.

We are witnessing the creation of a harmful infrastructure. The internet was intended to create connections and share information, but our fear is that these developments will further degrade Americans’ ability to empathize and see eye-to-eye. 

Rise of the Robots: Challenging automated decision-making in government (Wednesday, November 19 - 7pm EST) - This conference is designed to equip public lawyers with the practical knowledge and skills required to challenge automated government decisions. [Public Law Project]

Book Launch: Predict and Surveil by Sarah Brayne (Friday, November 20 - 3pm EST) - Discussion of Sarah Brayne's new book Predict and Surveil: Data, Discretion, and the Future of Policing. [RSVP]

Fighting Surveillance Tech with Trademark Transparency (Friday, November 20 - 5pm EST) - Decoding Stigma is holding a workshop about trademarks and copyrights applied to personal images, with implications for facial recognition, sex work and sexually exploitative material. [Eventbrite]

Online Hate Speech Grows in Wake of Election

  • [Unicorn Riot] Oathkeepers (a militia known for members’ ties to law enforcement and ardent support for Donald Trump) have escalated their rhetoric since the 2020 election results. Unicorn Riot obtained the private group communications that show a growing interest among Oathkeepers in committing violence against members of the media. 

  • [NPR] [Wall Street Journal] Parler is attracting conservatives who feel that Twitter and Facebook are censoring right-wing content as the companies work to crackdown explicit disinformation and ramp up their fact checking processes. The Mercer-backed app is quickly becoming a hotbed of hate-speech and conspiracy theories.  

  • [Daily KOS] [The Washington Post] An emerging tactic in conservative politics: Nonresident conservatives and Trump supporters are organizing large protests in cities perceived to be liberal (such as Portland and New York) as a means to spark conflict and violence. 

  • [Anonymous Comrades Collective] Last week, a Twitter user with the handle ‘@Oto666Yamaguchi’ (who we recently wrote about) posted links to a file containing comprehensive information on alleged activists in Portland, Oregon and Nashville, North Carolina. ‘@Oto666Yamaguchi’ was later doxxed by the Anonymous Comrades Collective, who were able to trace the files to a member of the Proud Boys residing in North Carolina. 

The Battle for the Internet We Want and Police Violations of Privacy

  • [University of Michigan] This Censored Planet tool launched in 2018 by the University of Michigan holds the largest collection of public internet censorship data. A recently published paper on the data finds encroaching censorship in democracies across the world and raises concerns about how the repeal of net neutrality creates pathways to censorship in the United States. 

  • [New York Times] Schools across the country are turning to remote solutions in midst of a pandemic, but for students who lack access to the internet, remote learning involves getting classes off flash drives, locating hot spots, and searching for free wifi.

  • [OneZero] In this still timely piece published in August, writer and activist Cory Doctorow (@doctorow) considers what it would take to destroy surveillance capitalism — and the socio-political system that fosters it in the first place. 

  • [BuzzFeed News] On Tuesday, the LAPD (the third largest police department in the country) notified employees of a ban on commercial facial recognition software. The notice was partly a response to reporting by BuzzFeed News that police were using Clearview AI software, which is known to pull data from social media platforms. 

  • [Vice] In San Diego, community pushback against thousands of so-called “smart streetlights” — streetlights containing hidden sensors and cameras — installed in 2017 has morphed into a grassroots-fueled campaign for potentially some of the strongest local privacy regulations in the United States.

On Our Radar...

  • [UC San Diego] This interactive portal explores ‘who’s who’ in the Chinese Communist Party 19th National Congress, which includes a smattering of elite and wealthy individuals leading China’s authoritarian capitalist model. 

  • [Discourse Blog] Jack Crosbie (@jscros) breaks down why the Hyperloop transit system (run by the company Virgin Hyperloop and backed by tech billionaires like Elon Musk) is actually the “perfect example of the end-state death-cult capitalism that the American ruling class believes in.”

  • [Louisville Courier Journal] Last week, the Courier Journal reported that the Louisville Metro Police and the Jefferson County Attorney’s Office hid and deleted at least 738,000 records related to allegations of sexual abuse of minors by two officers in the Explorer Scouts — a program for young people interested in law enforcement careers. 

  • [ArsTechnica] Election experts maintain that there is no evidence of widespread voting fraud in the 2020 presidential election. But that hasn’t stopped Trump from making false claims about election security. Over the weekend, Trump tweeted a video from last year’s Defcon hacker convention showing the convention’s ‘voting machine hacking village’ where participants make assessments of voting tech and infrastructure. Voting security experts and computer scientists say the video is not evidence of widespread voter fraud.   

  • [Bloomberg Businessweek] In Venezuela, consumers are turning to the finance app Zelle to make cashless payments in an economy troubled by depreciating currency and out of control inflation. 

Hate speech website: parler[.]com

Who hosts: Amazon Web Services

Today’s site is website[.]com. We previously covered Parler in the July 2nd, 2020 edition of hatemail when it was a lesser-known platform, though we pointed out that the site was advertising specifically towards trolls and housed pages for American Identity Movement and Identity Dixie, both SPLC-designatedhate groups.

Since then, Parler has seen an tremendous influx of users, due in part to the attention directed to it by far-right pundits. What has followed is a proliferation of hate speech on the platform, to the point where even Parler has even started to crack down.

We have observed multiple Parler entities resolve to Amazon Web Services, most recently to IP address 13.224.223[.]49.